Want to use a car but don't want to own one? If you can easily get to a Loring Park-area parking ramp, you can join the hOurCar program, set to debut this spring.
The program will let members "check out" 2004 or 2005 Toyota Priuses for $6.95 an hour plus 45 cents a mile (with $5 a month membership dues) or for $4.95 an hour plus 39 cents a mile (with $20 monthly dues). The fee covers gas, insurance and maintenance.
Six Priuses will be shared between the Loring Park hub and locations in Uptown and St. Paul's Lowertown. Members will reserve cars through the www.hourcar.org Web site or by phone. (If you're interested in signing up for the program or finding out more information, you can do so at the Web site.)
Organizer Mary Morse of St. Paul's Neighborhood Energy Consortium (NEC) said the Loring Park site hasn't been firmed up. She said it could be at the Hyatt Regency Parking ramp, at Grant Street & Nicollet Mall.
NEC officials say the program allows people to save money by sharing cars, while minimizing pollution. That's because the Prius, a gas-electric hybrid, puts out 90 percent fewer pollutants than the average new vehicle and gets 55 miles per gallon in city driving.
The University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs will evaluate the local hOurCar effort. The program hopes to start with 150 members.
The program's startup costs are funded by a $275,000 federal appropriation plus $50,000 from Hennepin County and $25,000 from the Saint Paul Foundation. There is also a state operating subsidy. NEC has contributed $60,000.