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Press Contact: Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, City Manager's Office, (510) 981-7008

City CarShare Launches the First Wheelchair-Accessible Car Share Van on April 22nd

Berkeley, California (Tuesday, April 22, 2008) - The nation’s first wheelchair-accessible car share van is now available to any City CarShare member.  The van, known as the AccessMobile, will increase travel options for those with disabilities in a manner that is independent of buses, paratransit schedules, the limitations of standard rentals and the high cost of buying a customized car or van.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, City Councilmember Dona Spring, City CarShare CEO Rick Hutchinson, and members of the Disability Commission introduced the van to the community today. It is the first disabled-access vehicle in a car-share program in the US.

“We’re delighted to be the first city in the U.S., and possibly the world, to provide car sharing to people with disabilities,” said Mayor Bates. “Berkeley has a long commitment to equal rights and universal access for people with disabilities. We were the first city in the country to install curb ramps on our sidewalks, and today we’re taking another historic step in providing a greener travel choice to all of our residents.”

“Once again Berkeley is at the forefront,” said Rick Hutchinson, CEO of City CarShare.  “We are privileged and proud to have partnered with the City to create an innovative program that extends car sharing to even more Bay Area residents. We encourage any and all those with special transportation needs to consider the AccessMobile as a resource for them and their families.”

The AccessMobile is a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, modified by Viewpoint Mobility. From the front seats forward, it is a standard van, but the rear door opens to reveal a robust manual fold ramp for wheelchair or cargo loading. It can carry six seated passengers, plus a passenger in a wheelchair, or 4 seated passengers and 2 people in wheelchairs. The car is equipped with wheelchair tie-downs and other adaptive features such as handholds.  It is not equipped with hand controls. 

The AccessMobile cost more than $50,000, which was split between the City and City CarShare. In 2007, Berkeley won the National Organization on Disability’s Accessible America contest and received a $25,000 prize sponsored by United Parcel Service. City CarShare matched that, and then some, to finance the AccessMobile.

“Berkeley has always been a leader in accessibility,” said Dmitri Belser, Vice-Chair of the City’s Disability Commission, which played a key role in identifying the need for an accessible car share vehicle and gave input into its design. “By taking the NOD award and using it to develop a new way of providing accessibility for people with disabilities, Berkeley has again demonstrated its innovative approach to access.”

The AccessMobile will join the fleet of five City CarShare vehicles that are currently used for City business. On weekdays, the AccessMobile will be available exclusively to those City CarShare members who need to use the Access equipment and City staff; during the evenings and weekends, it will be available to all City CarShare members.

Background Information

In 2004, Berkeley retired 10 cars in favor of sharing hybrid City CarShare vehicles. During the evenings and weekends when the cars aren’t needed for City business, any City CarShare member can use one.

Almost 15 percent of Berkeley residents, or 14,500 people, live with a disability.

City CarShare, a local nonprofit organization, has proven to be a popular, effective and green alternative transportation option for the Bay Area. A federally funded UC Berkeley study found that City CarShare members drive 49% less than those that own cars. Based on more results from the study, City CarShare estimates that its 270 shared vehicles save about a million gallons of gas and reduce 25+ million pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

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