Chicago-based app at center of car-sharing debate

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CHICAGO -- A growing number of Chicagoans are ditching their cars in favor of public transit and bicycles. But now there’s a new trend emerging in transportation that is making it easier for drivers to get vehicles on-demand.

Abandoning the expenses of owning a car in the city is all well and good -- until the need to travel by car arises. Now, with just one click of an app, drivers can find a vehicle in their neighborhood to rent. This transportation trend has gotten so big, there is now a nearly a half-million dollar federal grant to study it.

Stephen Pepper says not having a car saves him about $500 a month. He’s able to get where he needs to go by using CTA, walking, or borrowing a car from a complete stranger thanks to a new start-up company called Getaround, a GPS-equipped app recently launched in Chicago.

What separates Getaround from other car services such as Zipcar, Car2Go and Enterprise CarShare is the user-friendly app controls everything.

The program is growing in Chicago, with 80 cars now up for rent.

Getaround is now part of a $475,000 federally funded study to track the economic and environmental impact of car-sharing in Chicago.

Padden Murphy, head of business development at Getaround, says car-sharing should be used as a complement to public transportation, walking or biking -- especially since not owning a car is a widely growing trend.

A recent University of Michigan study ranked Chicago as No. 7 on a list of car-free cities, with 28 percent of households not owning one. That same study notes the number of American households going without a car has steadily increased nearly every year since 2007, going from 8.7 percent of households being car-free to 9.2 percent of American households being car-free in 2012.

Which brings us to Jacques Achille. He’s decided to keep his car. But he offsets the costs of owning one by renting his on Getaround.

Getaround owners set the price, renting for as low as $5 an hour. In the first month of renting out his car, Achille made $380.

The Federal Highway Administration will be able to study peer-to-peer car-sharing by tracking Getaround in three areas: a low-to-middle income neighborhood, like Pilsen; a more spread out suburban area, like Evanston; and within an apartment complex, yet to be determined.

Getaround says its goal is to help major cities like Chicago bridge transportation gaps that trap residents and increase their costs of living.

Services such as Getaround have made it possible for users to enjoy all the perks of owning a car, without the headaches that are associated with having one in the city.

Expansion for Getaround depends on the growth of its user base. If the current trend continues, there could be more vehicles available throughout Chicago.