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Car-sharing service returning to downtown Buffalo

Downtown Buffalo is once again getting a car-sharing service.

Buffalo CarShare, the local, not-for-profit forced to close June 15, has been tentatively acquired by Zipcar, a Boston-based car-sharing company.

The new owners could have vehicles back on the road for residents and students by October, according to Jennifer White, CarShare’s former director of communications.

Zipcar, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group., is already in the Buffalo market, with five cars based at the University at Buffalo. The company charges $8 to $10 an hour, depending on car model, with membership of $7 per month or $70 a year.

“Buffalo CarShare has proved this model of transportation works, can be profitable and can provide social equity,” White said. “It’s really exciting that, although we couldn’t continue as a nonprofit, we are excited that a car-sharing service will be maintained in Buffalo.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown was glad to hear car sharing will be resuming in Buffalo.

“I think that is a very good thing, and I think it shows the growing interest in investing in the City of Buffalo,” Brown said.

“Buffalo CarShare provided an important transportation option to people in the City of Buffalo, and I’m glad Zipcar is going to come in and provide transportation access that, for some people, had been absolutely critical.”

Car sharing is different from ride sharing, which is an alternative to conventional taxi cabs.

More than 900 people subscribed to Buffalo CarShare, with more than half earning $25,000 or less. Users included millennials, the elderly, the disabled, people of middle income and students. They paid a monthly membership fee, plus an hourly rate in order to be able to supplement a nondriving lifestyle.

Buffalo CarShare also teamed up with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to help reduce parking and congestion there, and to promote alternative forms of transportation. The campus even had pickup locations on site.

Lindsay Wester, spokeswoman for Zipcar, said the company’s mission is “to enable simple and responsible urban living,” and it will be providing “a variety of vehicle makes and models and a new and refreshed fleet.” But she indicated it is too early to say what annual subscriber and hourly rates will be, or how large a fleet there will be.

White said she hopes Zipcar will seek to serve the same kind of customers Buffalo CarShare reached.

Buffalo CarShare was forced to go out of business after the only insurance company in New York State serving independently operated car-share organizations wouldn’t renew its insurance.