Celebrating 35 Years: IGO CarSharing

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy!

 

#16 IGO CarSharing

In the late 1990′s, CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw visited Germany. In lieu of the usual souvenirs, she brought back an idea: car sharing as an alternative to car ownership.

Popular in Europe for some time, the concept of shared vehicles had yet to catch on in the United States. There was no such service in Chicago, so CNT researched what it might take to get one started.

Early IGO logo

Early IGO logo

With early support from partners and funders across North America, CNT initiated a pilot project with just a few cars and a very low-tech reservations system. Despite the usual growing pains of a startup, and stories of misplaced car keys, the service proved its value. Interest and membership grew, and IGO CarSharing was born.

As one of the first car sharing operations in the United States, IGO created a market in Chicago where none existed, expanding year-by-year from a few neighborhoods to a diverse mix of 40 (and four suburbs), and into the only car sharing service with 100-percent low-emission vehicles. Under the leadership of Sharon Feigon, IGO flourished into a 15,000-member car sharing community—a group of Chicagoans who proactively changed their behavior to rely less on personal vehicles and more on biking, walking and transit. As a result, IGO members helped reduce emissions and contributed to an improved quality of life throughout the region.

On May 28, 2013, in a move to accelerate the expansion of car sharing in Chicago, IGO was acquired by Enterprise Holdings, Inc., the company that also operates Enterprise, Alamo, and National Car Rental.

“This is good news for Chicagoans, and represents a great investment in our region and our communities,” CNT’s CEO, Kathryn Tholin, said at the time. “That an industry leader like Enterprise is embracing car sharing in Chicago speaks not only to the foresight of our pioneering plan and years of success, but to the growing market for consumer choices that are both eco-friendly and economical.”

Checking out an electric vehicle at an IGO member event

Checking out an electric vehicle at an IGO member event

Indeed, as a nonprofit we are especially proud of what IGO accomplished and the leading role we played in the development of the car sharing industry. We’ve delivered many products, tools, and advances to businesses, governments, and municipalities, but Enterprise adding IGO to its Enterprise CarShare network is perhaps the largest-scale example.

CNT, along with our affiliate organization, Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland (the nonprofit that operated IGO), will continue to explore and develop new ways to meet our shared mission of making it possible for people to live well without having to own a vehicle. We will do this because we will continue to be an innovator: advancing ideas, testing strategies, offering solutions. It’s in our DNA.

What will our “next IGO” be? Stay tuned …

We’re celebrating CNT’s 35 years of impact on sustainable urban development through 35 weeks of posts like this one. If you have a story or picture from our past, please share it with Anjuli@cnt.org. Thanks!

 

CNT’s work is made possible, in part, through generous support from individual donors. Please click here to make a gift in honor of our 35th anniversary.

 

Next week: #17 The Wireless Community Network Project