Tenant Spotlight: Colorado Carshare

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This interview is with Sofia Corley, Member Services and Admin Assistant at Colorado CarShare (formerly eGo CarShare).

What does your organization do and how long have you been around? 

Colorado CarShare started in Boulder in 1997 as “The Little Red Car Co-op.” Since then we have remained focused solely on serving our neighbors in the Denver/Boulder area. We are proud to be an institution that contributes to making Colorado the best place to call home. We are Colorado’s first, only – and one of the nation’s longest running – nonprofit carshare organizations working to make a positive impact on the environment and local residents’ health, wealth and community.

What specific programs, practices, or priorities is your organization most focused on right now on? How have these programs, practices or priorities evolved over time?  

Currently, we are very focused on electrifying our fleet, increasing our vehicle locations to be more inclusive throughout low-to-mixed income communities and building back up our organization’s safety net during and after the impacts of COVID-19. Being the nation’s first all electric car share nonprofit has been a goal of ours for a long time, but we have recently taken great strides in bringing this dream to fruition.
We recently received a grant from the City and County of Denver for six new electric vehicles and another grant is in the works for two more. We foster inclusivity through strategic locations, partnerships and heavily discounted rates to serve low-to-mixed-income and older communities. Especially now, vulnerable members of our community who do not own cars depend on us to fill the gaps necessary to create efficient connections with other affordable transportation options. We do our best to strategically place our shared vehicles where people live and near public transit to make it possible to live a car-free lifestyle in the Denver/Boulder area.

In what ways could The Alliance Center community help you achieve your mission? Are you looking for partnerships, advice, connections?

With over 50% of our members having annual family incomes of less than $50,000, many of them participate in qualified low-income housing programs, including Denver Housing Authority (DHA), Habitat for Humanity (HFH), Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) and others. Providing these families with access to our fleet wouldn’t be possible without these incredible partners. We are always looking to expand our collaborations to grow our capacity for supporting our communities that are most in-need.

What is unique about your organization that you could offer to the community? 

Colorado CarShare is unique among The Alliance Center community because we are equal parts environmental and social equity nonprofit and small business. This duality allows us to serve our community and protect our environment by offering an essential service at an affordable price – all the while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from one of the biggest polluting industries: transportation.

What does success look like for you as it relates to sustainability and your organization’s mission? 

Our goals are based on reduction in single occupancy vehicles (SOV), an increase in the use of alternative mobility modes and an increase in personal wealth and access to vital services in disadvantaged communities. We measure these impacts through:
  1. Data from our carshare vehicle use
  2. External national studies
  3. Direct member surveys
We translate our data to quantified carbon and other impacts based on the fact that on an annual basis, every round-trip station-based carshare vehicle in service results in the following:
  •  Replaces 9-13 personally owned vehicles
  •  Reduces an ~ 150,000 vehicle miles travelled (VMT)
  •  Averts over 8,000 gallons of gasoline from being used (Electric vehicle savings are greater)
  •  Prevents over 73 tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere
  •  Helps our members drive an average of 44% less and save around $6,500 in car expenses
By multiplying that by ~50 vehicle fleet and over 3,500 Colorado Carshare members you can calculate our overall local community impact. Through a unique combination of partnerships, strategic vehicle locations and affordable rates, we work to connect the mobility dots to complete affordable, sustainable transportation options for all Coloradans, especially those who are otherwise disadvantaged.

What is your proudest achievement as an organization?

We are proud to be Colorado’s only, and one of the country’s longest running, nonprofit carshare organizations. We were sharing before the “shared economy” as a concept existed. We’ve watched many of the multi-national and venture capital backed, supposed disruptors come and go, most of whom had zero interest in supporting our local community.
What we do is innovative as our fleet of strategically placed vehicles allows our members to maximize their transportation options while saving money, mitigating traffic and supporting a cleaner environment. This includes reducing personally owned vehicles, miles, gas consumption and carbon emissions. On top of that, our goal is to be the country’s first nonprofit EV carshare organization. This includes supporting mixed income communities that are typically underserved when it comes to affordable mobility options. In doing so, we are creating a scalable, replicable model that can be expanded across Colorado and nationally.

What is a specific challenge your organization has faced and how have you overcome it?

Over the years, we’ve faced many multinational mobility businesses entering the market, some as start-ups with deep pockets and others that were started by automobile manufacturers. What most of them didn’t understand is the unique needs and challenges at a local level and as a result most of them have come and gone.
More recently, the current public health and economic crisis almost knocked us out. Even though we are a nonprofit, most of our revenue is from earned income (carshare member use).  Starting in March of 2020 when the first stay-at-home order was activated, we lost over 85% of our earned income pretty much overnight. We overcame it by getting out in front of the issue with early and proactive fleet sanitization, member and public communications and “furloughing” a significant portion of our fleet in order to drastically cut expenses. All of our staff took voluntary pay and time cuts so that we didn’t have to let anyone go, which helped along with the CARES Act’s PPP loan and several emergency COVID recovery grants.

How long has your organization been connected with The Alliance Center?

We have been tenants of the Alliance for over a decade, including having one of our carshare vehicles on-site and available for Alliance staff, tenants and the community. We are currently adding an all-electric carshare vehicle there as part of a solar to EV pilot project that will include feeding the vehicle’s battery storage back to the building during peak demand, which we’re super excited about.

Why did your organization choose the Alliance over other working spaces?

One thing that makes Colorado so special is the numerous organizations whose sole mission is to help the environment and communities in need. The Alliance Center is home to so many of these organizations, which is why Colorado CarShare chose it as a working space. Being surrounded by these inspirational organizations reminds us that we are not alone in the pursuit of our goals. As part of this community, we are more confident in our ability, as an organization and as a society, to reduce our collective impact on the planet.

What’s your favorite memory of being in The Alliance Center? 

We loved the sustainability related in-person events where we could come together with like-minded organizations and people to meet, network and share vision and action.

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