PORTLAND (AP) – A division of U-Haul will be launching a European-style car-sharing program in Maine’s largest city by year’s end, a move that local officials hope will enable some residents to forgo a second family car or perhaps go without any car at all.

U Car Share plans to deliver four white PT Cruisers that will be stationed near the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal and Monument Square, where they will be available for self-service, hourly rentals. The use fee of $10 an hour or $65 a day covers gas, maintenance, insurance and parking.

The city invited U Car Share to Portland to help reduce the number of cars clogging streets and parking lots and to encourage the use of public transportation.

Car-sharing programs began in Europe more than 20 years ago and have since spread to some U.S. cities, including Boston.

In Portland, the City Council gave its blessing to the idea Monday, voting to dedicate four prime parking spots to the program.

“The idea is for (households) to have less need for a second vehicle,” said John Peverada, manager of the city’s parking division. “Hopefully, it’s going to reduce the traffic and it’s going to reduce the demand on parking.”

While specific details vary, car-sharing programs generally require customers to pay a membership fee and use the Internet to reserve the vehicles. Members use identification cards to unlock the cars and are charged for the time they use them. Members refill the gas tanks when they get below a quarter full, but the company pays for the fuel.

Matti Gurney, a resident of the Munjoy Hill neighborhood who was involved in the effort to bring car-sharing to Portland, said the idea has generated a lot of interest.

“My wife and I share one car, and I walk to work most days,” Gurney said. “But there are the days when both of us have to go to meetings or we have doctor’s appointments for the kids, and those are the days I might use it.” City Councilor Kevin Donoghue said the program might be especially helpful to Casco Bay islanders who ride the ferries, but leave cars on the mainland. “This has the opportunity to reduce the demand for those who might be storing their car on the waterfront for occasional use at high costs,” he said.

U Car Share is starting small in its first Maine effort, said Cassandra Allen, program manager at the company’s headquarters in Phoenix. “We’ll grow it as the membership grows.”


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