Pixel Tracker

Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 12:42 am | Fair 44º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
Santa Barbara Athletic Round TableThe LabAmerican Riviera Bank

UCSB Launches Car-Share Program

The university has launched a car-share program to promote environmentally friendly transportation.


For students, faculty and others around UCSB who don’t use cars, the campus this year will be a little less of a desert island.

In an effort to promote environmentally friendly transportation, the university has launched a car-share program in which students, staff or anyone in the area can rent a Hybrid Honda Civic by the hour.

The so-named Flexcar program isn’t cheap — it’s $5.50 an hour, or $60 for an entire day — and it requires an annual membership. But it might come in handy for someone who needs to zoom over to Santa Barbara for a midday dental appointment or trip to the grocery store.

"We have over 130 people that ride van pools to campus," said James Wagner, a manager in UCSB’s transportation alternatives program. "Many are from Ventura, Thousand Oaks or Santa Maria, and they don’t have a vehicle at all. This could be a real boon to them."

UCSB’s pilot program has city leaders watching closely. Mayor Marty Blum said she and other council members have long been interested in adopting a car share program for people who work downtown but don’t drive.

 "City employees (who do not drive to work) have the benefit of being able to use a city car, but not all downtown employees can do that," she said.

About a year ago, Blum said she met with a car-share company, but its representative wanted to put 50 vehicles downtown, which she said is far too many.

"I was hoping to start out with five or six," she said. The city may be able to look to UCSB’s model as a guide: the program is starting out with just two cars.

To participate in UCSB’s program, users must sign up to be members with Flexcar either online (Flexcar.com ) or by going into UCSB’s office of the Transportation Alternatives Program. (It is located off Stadium Road, in Building 388, near Parking Lot 30.)

Members will receive in the mail a plastic card — or "Flexcard." The card is the "key." Once a person receives it, he or she can sign up to make reservations online or over the phone. To get into the car, the user must swipe the card onto the windshield reader. Once inside, the driver will see that the real key is in the ignition. (If a miscreant breaks into the car, the key won’t work.)

Annual membership costs $35, but the first year will be free for anyone who joins by Nov. 28.  (Click here  for more info.) 


* A person cannot use the Flexcar unless they have made an appointment. If she has not made one, her plastic card, when held up to the windshield reader, will receive no response.

* Gas is free, and there is an incentive to fill up. Every car comes with a credit card that can only be used to purchase gas. Those who do this will receive a $2 credit. (Those who leave the tank beneath a quarter-full are charged $25.)

* Due to a process in which the energy of the brakes is harnessed to generate battery power, the Hybrid Honda Civic gets about 40 miles to the gallon, regardless of whether it is in town or on the freeway.

For more information, contact the UCSB Transportation Alternatives Program. (805) 893-5475.

The UCSB plan is open to more than just students and faculty. Users also could be residents of Isla Vista, employees of nearby shops and restaurants or parents of students. They could even be homeless.

"If the homeless person had a credit card, and a mailing address — and if they were well connected, they might have one — it would be an extreme case, but definitely permissible," Wagner said.

One of the two available cars is stationed in Lot 14, near Campbell Hall. The other is in Lot 1, near the biology buildings off Lagoon Road. (Click here  for map of UCSB.)

The concept of car-sharing isn’t new. It originated decades ago in Europe, but took hold in the United States in the 1990s. Now, programs exist in cities such as San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

One challenge of adopting the practice in Santa Barbara is the city’s small size. Mayor Blum said that, to the best of her knowledge, the car-share programs around the United States are located in major metropolitan areas much larger than Santa Barbara.

Another challenge is the cost. The UCSB rate of $5.50 an hour sounds expensive, but it should cost even more. That’s because the program is subsidized by the university. In nearby Los Angeles, for example, members pay $10 an hour, Wagner said.{mosimage}

Although the UCSB rate might be a good deal in comparison to other plans, for the campus faculty it actually represents a major price hike. That’s because, as an experiment, Flexcar for the past two years has been offered to them for free.

So for employees like John Berberet, a UCSB marriage-family therapist whose clients work at the university, the new plan represents a new cost. Still, Berberet, who leaves his own Civic in the garage and bicycles three-and-half miles into campus for the exercise, said he might use the service from time to time.

For instance, sometimes he needs to travel into Santa Barbara with a group of colleagues for a professional luncheon.

"We’d probably be gone for two hours," he said. "If everybody pitched in a couple bucks, it would be no big deal. It would be a lot more comfortable than the bus."

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >