News: A Car a Week Can Make Life Sweet

By Linda Mooney

If you’re like many South Beach transplants, you moved here with the giddy intention to sell your car at long last and live the life of a beach-bound, walking/biking bohemian who has sworn off oil dependence. But, like many car-less residents, you might have found that life without four wheels can indeed be a bit of a struggle at times (even mopeds don’t cut it for some errands).

This is why the City of Miami Beach is introducing a car-sharing program on the island, starting next Tuesday, January 24th, called Hertz on Demand.

They get it. Fewer cars means less traffic, less pollution, fewer parking tickets and, frankly, a better quality of life, since reducing traffic congestion ranked as the second highest change Miamians would like to see happen on Miami Beach to make it a better place to live, work, play and visit, per a 2009 Community Satisfaction Survey.

The official kick off will begin at 10am on the 6th floor of the City Hall Garage (18th and Meridian), one of several Miami Beach locations where one can pick up or drop off a car. Other beach garages include: 5th and Alton, 7th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th and 42nd.

“The system is simple,” explains Paula R. Rivera, Manager of Public Affairs for The Hertz Corporation, the largest general-use airport rental-car brand in the world. Go to hertzondemand.com and apply to become a member. “There are no fees to do this—initially, monthly or otherwise. To become a member, you just need a valid license, credit card and clean driving record.”

Once enrolled, members receive a key fob (essentially, a key chain equipped to access network data) and can make reservations online. Then, at the designated time, they swipe their fob over an RFID (radio-frequency identification) reader on the car driver’s side window. Once the match is confirmed, the doors unlock. And since the keys are inside, you are then set to simply drive away.

The “No Wheels, No Problem” service, as promoted by the City, makes Miami Beach the first place in Florida to launch such a shared-car service and puts us in good company, alongside Boston, Chicago, Denver, LA, NYC, San Francisco, DC, San Antonio, Paris, Madrid, London and Berlin, to name a few participating cities. The program, which originally began as Connect by Hertz in 2008, rebranded as Hertz on Demand in June 2011 and now has more than 85,000 members, with 700 vehicles at over 500 locations in six countries, including some corporate offices and 50 major universities across the Unites States.

“The Miami Beach Parking Department will lease two to five parking spots to Hertz on the upper levels of each of the eight garages,” says Nannette Rodriguez, Public Information Officer for the City of Miami Beach. “The program will launch with at least 20 vehicles, which will run the gamut from compact to luxury and SUVs, and then add more till a max of 100 vehicles is reached. Eventually, one out of every 20 cars will be hybrid and electric cars once charging stations are installed and the rental program is fully implemented.”

Improving upon traditional car rental service, this program allows last-minute, self-serve, reservations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, whether it’s a roundtrip run to the grocery store, the need for a minivan to move furniture or a one-way trip to the airport, Hertz on Demand will allow members to pick up and drop off where they choose and rent by the hour ($9-15.75) or by the day ($63-170); fees vary depending on the type of vehicle chosen.

Best of all, gas (or recharging) is included with the hourly rate. You will only be asked to refill the tank, using the in-car gas card, if the levels fall below a quarter tank. If you’re paying by the day, you can take the car up to 180 miles per 24-hour period. (FYI, Key West is only 170 miles away.) And as of October 2011, punitive fees for late returns have been abolished; members just pay the prorated charge for every extra 30 minutes they’ve run over on their reservation.

As for insurance, it’s included. To keep rental rates low, there is a $250 deductible if you do get in a wreck, so drive carefully.

If you live on South Beach, it’s time to ask yourself, do I really need to own a car? Between the ridiculously cheap bus fares and the convenient, affordable bike-sharing program, not to mention the fact that you can walk to nearly everything, there’s almost no justification for owning a vehicle these days and paying for monthly insurance, gas, parking and the occasional tickets when you can take that burden off your plate and live more eco-friendly.

It’s a win-win-win.

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