A popular car sharing program started in Chicago hopes a new approach will help it take root in the Northwest suburbs.
After testing out I-GO cars in Des Plaines for a year without drawing enough users, the Chicago-based nonprofit is partnering with a Rosemont business to boost use of the service in the suburban market.
Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. of Rosemont is I-GO Car Sharing's first corporate member to reduce its own vehicle fleet by more than 50 percent by using the service. The firm's employees can use two low-emission I-GO vehicles for meetings and site visits from 6 a.m. Mondays until 6 p.m. Fridays.
"We are always seeking new opportunities to help reduce costs as well as be more environmentally friendly," Christopher Burke said in a news release. "I-GO is able to provide us a solution to our transportation needs while helping promote our environmental mission."
Area residents who are I-GO members will be able to use the cars -- located at the CTA Blue Line station in Rosemont -- from Friday evening through Monday morning to run errands, visit family members, get to doctor's appointments, or to take their children to sports practice.
I-GO, launched in 2002 by the Center For Neighborhood Technology, operates a fleet of roughly 285, low-emission, hybrid and electric vehicles in 40 Chicago neighborhoods and five suburbs. There is a membership fee and user fee to utilize the service.
The service may be rolled out to other area suburbs based on need and the success of the Rosemont model, said I-GO Director of Business Development Richard Kosmacher.
"The suburbs that we would always look to first would be suburbs that have residential development in their downtowns, any suburbs doing transit-oriented development ... and creating some density in their downtown areas," he said.
Kosmacher said the key to surviving in the suburbs is having a strong corporate member base.
"The cars tend to be used more by businesses during the week," he said.
In 2009, company leaders decided to test the Northwest suburban market, stationing cars at the Des Plaines Metra train station focusing on residential consumers, but the cars didn't generate enough interest from residents to sustain the program.
"Definitely, what we learned in Des Plaines is that you have to have that combination of residential use and a large employer or partnership with a municipality," Kosmacher said. "We're applying some of those lessons in Rosemont."
I-GO has 15,000 members. Its mission is to improve quality of life by reducing transportation costs, relieving traffic congestion, improving air quality, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Kosmacher said I-GO wants more business partnerships. "And as we add more businesses, we will add more vehicles. Our goal is to serve as many communities as we possibly can," he said.