Taking a Closer Look at Flexcar

Wednesday, January 19, 2005, at 12:04PM

By Eric Richardson

I mentioned Flexcar briefly in my last post as one of the transit options I was looking into. Today I took the next step and signed up with them, so that I can try it out next month and see whether it seems like something that'll work effectively for me. Today I started a little more research into their service.

Just under a year ago Flexcar issued a press release proclaiming that their LA service was up to 42 cars. Since then, however, they've had to cut back. An LA Times article I saw earlier today from the summer gave a number around 15 (I think... I don't have the article in front of me right now). From the website there look to be three cars Downtown; one at the Bonaventure and two at Union Station.

I had walked over to the library this afternoon, so I dropped by the Bonaventure to check out the car. It was there, and as advertised was a Honda Civic hybrid. They're small cars, but they look nice. The Bonaventure car is parked in the valet area; one of the valets took me over to it and let me look inside. I asked him how often the car was used and he said every day. I don't know what time of the day is most in demand; I'm sending an email off to Flexcar's LA address hoping to get a few questions like that answered. I assume the reservation calendar would also let me know things like that once I have access to it. The valet asked me how the service worked and I explained the yearly fee and the plan options. He thought it sounded like a pretty good deal. As of right now I tend to agree.

At first glance you see a number like 10 hours for $85/month and you think "What? That's crazy." Really, though, it isn't. I've been paying $150/mon for parking across the street from my building. For just that cost I could get about 12 hours out of a Flexcar, plus pay for a monthly MTA pass. 12 hours isn't much if you're planning to drive the car to the beach and let it sit while you lay out all day, but it's a number that'll handle a couple trips a month for errands, plus maybe three nights out a month (midnight - 6am are free, so if you make your reservation for 9pm you get a little leeway in what time you come home). To be honest, I wasn't really driving much more than that anyway.