"I now pronounce you, divorced!" said Sonya Newenhouse, founder of Community Car. With a bang of the gavel, six newly "single and loving it" Madisonians were free from the burdensome relationship they had endured for years -- their relationship with their car, that is.
This not-so-sad break-up event in front of the Orpheum Theatre on State Street Monday was part of Community Car of Madison's first "Divorce Your Car Party."
The local car sharing program, one of only 18 in the nation, strategically places cars around Madison in reserved spots. Patrons pay monthly fees and per hour rates which cover gas, maintenance, insurance, and other standard expenses. Each shared vehicle can potentially replace up to 20 privately owned cars.
Realtor Brent Sainsbury, 29, spent three months thinking about selling his beloved 325 BMW, a car he had dreamed about as a child. "Own less and live more, which is the Community Car motto," says Sainsbury, "has become the perfect motto for me, too." The turning point, he says, was the recent placement of a Community Car vehicle near Hilldale Mall, close to his home.
Sainsbury's business, Enlightening Real Estate, also offers a one-year Community Car membership as part of some downtown condo purchases.
According to Amanda White, Community Car's executive director, the locally owned nonprofit has gained nearly 600 users since starting with just 20 charter members and three cars in 2003.
The Madison fleet, which will soon grow to fifteen vehicles, is not just standard cars, says White. There is a pick-up truck, an eight passenger van, a couple of Prius hybrids, and a brand new Mini-Cooper for some zippy date-night fun.
Community Car is Wisconsin's first car-share organization and now serves nearly 40 nonprofit organizations and 20 other businesses. Ideally, use of shared vehicles decreases traffic congestion and helps to improve air quality.
According to White, about 15 percent of their clientele is between the ages of 21 and 30, with about the same percentage retirement age or older.
Devorah Sherman, 24, divorced her 1996 Plymouth Breeze as part of the ceremony. "It was costing me so much," says Sherman. "Why not ride my bike and save a helluva lot of money?"
Interested in reducing your carbon footprint by going car-free? Contact Community Car at 608-204-0000 or stop by its offices at 25 N. Pinckney Street, Suite 320 during regular business hours.