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Zipcar deal expected to save city $400,000

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has complained that Chicago has too many government vehicles that gobble up too much fuel and needs to cut costs by switching to car-sharing.

City Hall apparently got the message.

On Thursday, the Daley administration announced that it has entered into an agreement with car-sharing giant Zipcar that will remove more than 100 vehicles from service and save $400,000 in fuel and maintenance costs by the end of 2012.

Zipcar is the world’s leading car-sharing service. For $5.95-an-hour — including fuel, maintenance and insurance — city employees who now drive city-owned vehicles will be able to use the Zipcar fleet after making on-line reservations with a so-called “Zipcard.”

To reserve a vehicle, city employees will be required to state the purpose of the GPS-tracked trip.

Zipcar will also install on-line reservation devices on city-owned pool vehicles, enabling employees to use Zipcards to reserve those vehicles as well.

“Car sharing will further our ongoing efforts to reduce expense by enabling several employees from various departments and shifts to use the same vehicle,” newly-appointed Fleet Management Commissioner Pat Harney said in a press release.

“This Zipcar program will produce both immediate and long-term savings in vehicle purchase costs, fuel and maintenance.”

Chicago taxpayers spend $135 million-a-year to maintain and fuel the city’s non-emergency fleet.

Over the years, Mayor Daley has reined in the number of take-home vehicles in favor of a system that requires more than 100 city managers to share leasing, insurance and maintenance costs and pay for their own fuel.

Emanuel has vowed to go even further to reduce the city’s costs.

He campaigned on a promise to save at least $5 million during his first year as mayor by purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles and encouraging city employees to share cars, take bicycles and use mass transit.

The mayor-elect would start by ordering an inventory of vehicles to determine the age and fuel efficiency of all non-emergency vehicles. That would be followed by doubling — to 20 percent in 2011 alone — the annual switch to hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

Emanuel has also promised to reduce work-related trips and miles traveled by city employees by ten percent within his first two years in office. Ten percent of the trips would involve car-sharing, bikes and mass transit, he has said.

“When you don’t need to take a car and you can take mass-transit, take it and you would see a reduction in costs,” he told reporters in January.

“And I would see the management of that fleet more like a Zipcar service than what we do today. ... That’s a better way of using vehicles” than giving city managers a car to take home.

Emanuel has noted that, when he was working downtown, he used to take the Brown Line home. When he was commuting to Washington as a member of Congress, he took the Blue Line to and from the airport.

“I plan, as mayor, to continue periodically to take mass transit. I also will walk. I’m a big biker, too. You have to do it by example,” he said.

“You don’t mandate it, but you manage from the top with a direction that all the employees would follow.”

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