Friday, June 12, 2015

A Letter From the Executive Director, Mike Galligano

Dear Members, Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters of BCS, 

As many of you know, I have been proudly working for Buffalo CarShare (BCS) for the last eight years. BCS started as an idea discussed over beers, and became the life-changing social service that it is today, helping thousands of people in Buffalo, including myself. Because of CarShare, I felt fulfilled, challenged, and ambitious about the world of opportunity ahead of us. We were changing transportation in Buffalo, NYS, and the country.  

In the past six years, Buffalo CarShare’s 19 vehicles have taken over 35,000 trips for over 1 million miles. Most of those trips were taken by members that cannot afford a personal vehicle, and therefore relied solely on CarShare to get to vital destinations. Carsharing quickly turned into a necessity for our members that otherwise had no option to get to the places they needed to go, and immediately started enhancing their quality of life.
“Buffalo CarShare gives me the freedom to do things I wouldn’t be able to do.” -Johnnie, member since 2009
Creating freedom? I can tell you, when we started we had no idea that the result of our service would be creating freedom. As we gathered more and more of our members ‘sharemonials’, we noticed this was a common theme and as a result, this is why we now exist. But all of that may be coming to an end due to NYS law that does not encourage unique transportation services to operate. 
BCS hasn’t received one quote from an insurance carrier because our business is too unique and NYS law makes us too difficult to insure.

Why is this so important? Simple - because everyone deserves affordable and innovative transportation, not just the wealthy. Why is there no carsharing services in cities like Cleveland, Syracuse, and others like Buffalo? Easy - because for-profit companies do not see the financial benefit in serving these cities. Therefore, these services are not accessed by a majority of the population. Really think about this: access to Buffalo CarShare vehicles has spurred an estimate of $5 million dollars in collective savings for members, provided them access to job interviews and healthy foods, and facilitated a sense of freedom that did not exist before.
  • 50% of our membership makes a household income of $25,000 or less. This shatters carsharing industry averages.
  • At the same time as this insurance crisis, Southern California cities are looking into the Buffalo model as a way to provide access for low-income communities that need it.  
On one side of the country, BCS is being forced out of the state of New York, and on the other side, California is looking at the model as a way to help low-income communities get around. Funny, isn’t it? Well not really, not when that means people in Buffalo will be stranded with no way to get to their monthly doctor’s appointments or see their friends and family. 

We have identified some options to stay in business which include raising several million dollars to become self-insured, or become bought out or absorbed. There is one option that will allow us to get insured within the next month or so.  

There isn’t much time left and we have to call upon our supporters to help us get this bill passed. The passing of bills A8027 and S4444B will open the door for a competitive insurance market for carsharing in NYS and also increase alternative transportation options in the state. Since we have no stopgap plans as of yet, we will cease operating on June 15 until we can obtain a suitable insurance policy. Again, this will only happen if the bill passes at the end of session on June 17. 

This CarSharing bill will save Buffalo CarShare. We need to advocate for this bill to be passed. Click this link to our latest newsletter:, which will allow you to send an e-mail to legislators and sign our petition. 

Thank you for your support over the years. During this crisis we’ve asked members to send us their testimonials to use for conveying to the state and potential insurers how large our impact is on people’s lives. I have read each and every one of them, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much all of you have changed MY life. So here is my testimonial:
"Buffalo CarShare has allowed me to live a better life without the burden of owning a car.... I bought a house with all that savings. I'm shocked and disgusted that the state is allowing this to happen to a non-profit dedicated to helping thousands of people live better lives. I couldn't care less about my job, I just care that our members get served, which won't happen if NYS doesn't recognize this vital service now."
Mike Galligano

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A heartfelt letter from a member and volunteer

Dear CarShare,

     Five years ago I was struggling on a small, fixed income from a work related back injury. I had two rods and artificial disc replacement surgeries. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 18 months of chemo, I had a mastectomy. Throughout my membership with your organization, my husband and I, and our seven children have been able to make trips to the grocery store, hardware & department stores as well as many, many doctor appointments. At the time, we could not afford a car of our own. Neither could we afford to rent cars through the big rental companies (Enterprise, Hertz, etc.) or even afford taxi cabs. You gave us an inexpensive way to live our life without hurting us financially.

     Now that I've finished my cancer treatments & my husband was able to return to work, we have our own vehicle, but we will continue to remain members for emergency situations and also to volunteer our services whenever and wherever you need us. It is our way of saying thank you.

     Words cannot express the gratitude we have that your services were available during our greatest need. Thank you for caring and being so generous & understanding. When we couldn't afford the membership fees, you gave us the opportunity to clean the cars instead. I've never had the opportunity to be a part of another organization that comes close to the caliber your's thrives on. Buffalo will not be the same should Buffalo CarShare close it's doors.
 If there is anything I can do to help you in your endeavors, please ask.

         Thank you,

                              Veronica & Rev. Chris

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Member Testimonial: Anonymous

I have been a member of Buffalo CarShare since its inception. In fact, I’m member #20, a title that I hold with pride. I was a member of a carsharing organization in Chicago when I lived there, so when Buffalo CarShare opened its doors in 2009, I knew how it worked and that it was right for me. At age 38, I have yet to own my own car for environmental reasons, and Buffalo CarShare allows me to continue to be car-free.

Not only does Buffalo CarShare allow me to accomplish things like taking my cats to the vet, getting my taxes done, and hauling yard waste to the city drop-off site, it lets me visit beautiful nature preservation areas where I photograph the scenery to supplement my income. In short, Buffalo CarShare significantly enhances my quality of life.

As a society, we are moving more and more toward urban living, and with that, the need for carsharing will only rise. Whether it’s for economic or environmental reasons, carsharing makes sense to people from all walks of life for different reasons. Also, the environmental and social impacts of carsharing are colossal. When all of this is threatened in the state of New York because of insurance laws, then it’s time to change those laws because they should reflect our ever-changing society.

I take pride in being a native of the great state of New York, which has long enjoyed a reputation of being progressive and the incubator of societal change. Letting Buffalo CarShare become extinct will not only be a detriment to thousands of residents across the state, but it will be an irreversible stain on the state of New York. All of this will disenchant young professionals from moving into Buffalo, or elsewhere across the state, who wish to live a greener lifestyle by being car-free. For these reasons, I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t imagine life without Buffalo CarShare.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Video Testimonial: Marianna Kreidler

Marianna is an employee of Locust Street Art, a non-profit whose mission is to provide free or low-cost art classes on a consistent basis for any individual, especially youth, low-income and minority individuals from ages 3 1/2 to senior adult, to seriously develop the talent and skills necessary to excel in the visual arts.

Marianna says they have expanded services only because of their access to Buffalo CarShare vehicles.

Locust Street Art is one of 40 non-profit organizations that use Buffalo CarShare to help further their own missions, reach more people, and work more efficiently. Buffalo CarShare has given non-profits in Buffalo FREE membership for the past six years. Our non-profit members rely on Buffalo CarShare. The impact that this organization has on Buffalo is absolutely enormous when you think about the communities and people affected by the great work of the following non-profit members:

GO Bike Buffalo
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Buffalo First
PUSH Buffalo
Massachusetts Avenue Project
Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo
Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center
Coalition for Economic Justice
Heart of the City Neighborhoods
Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER
Canisius College (ALANA Student Center)
Wellness Institute of Buffalo
First Hand Learning
Clean Air Coalition of Western New York
Lafayette Ave Presbyterian Church
Concerned Ecumenical Ministry
Compeer West Inc.
Citizen Action of New York
Canopy of Neighbors
Elmwood Village Association
Fruitbelt Coalition
Peace Center
Buffalo Citybration
CEPA Gallery
None Like You Family Education Community Outreach
Partnership for the Public Good
Allentown Association
Western New York Sustainable Energy Association
Community Music School
Explore Buffalo
University Heights Tool Library
West Side Neighborhood Housing Services Inc
Learning Disabilities Association of WNY
Hostel Buffalo-Niagara
Locust Street Art
Jericho Road Community Health Center
Trinity Episcopal Church

Member Testimonial: Patty Walsh

I was stunned to hear that Buffalo CarShare may be forced out of service due to the problems with providing insurance coverage!

I have been a member for over five years now, and Buffalo CarShare has provided a way for me to have access to a motor vehicle when I need one.

Buffalo, New York, unfortunately, does not have a safe or dependable metro transportation system. I rely on my bicycle for transportation Spring through Fall in this area. However, that is only possible with access to a vehicle when absolutely necessary with Buffalo CarShare.

Like many cities in Europe and across the United States the CarShare approach to vehicle usage is the future.

If Buffalo wants to emerge as a city with a future and a plan forward it needs to have the CarShare program as well as improve its metro transit system.

London, England is a good example of looking towards the future and providing accessible transportation while reducing the carbon footprint of its population. CarShare services provide the support for citizens to have access to vehicles when needed.

CarShare has helped me get through a transitional period in my life involving a long period of caregiving. This service needs to continue for those who need to have access to a vehicle and either cannot afford to own a vehicle or choose not to own a vehicle with their carbon footprint in mind.


Patty Walsh

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Member Testimonial: Holly Hutchinson

Testimonial from Buffalo CarShare member Holly Hutchinson:

I have been a Buffalo CarShare member for 3 years. I have used the cars to get to appointments, lunch dates, and meetings; the van to shuttle groups of co-workers to work sites; and the truck to move things like chairs and tents for events.  

In my current position as the Workforce Development Coordinator for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, I often use one of the electric cars to get to meetings in the community. This makes me happy for many reasons: I don’t have to bring my car to work and can walk to the office. I get my daily exercise. I don’t have to pay for parking. I reduce my carbon footprint and I reduce the number of cars taking up space on the Medical Campus.

I have always been a great admirer of Buffalo CarShare. They are not a car rental company, nor even your average carsharing service. They are a true community organization, serving the needs of people in our city. One example is their commitment to serving seniors by researching, designing and implementing a program to use volunteers to drive seniors to a lunch program run by the Salvation Army.

How can we measure the benefits to our community of giving isolated seniors a way to interact with others and have some nourishing food? Lives are made better because of Buffalo CarShare and their hard-working staff.

Buffalo CarShare is a very important player in Buffalo’s renaissance. The growing culture here of environmental awareness, urban transit, and business innovation contributes to a vibrant city which keeps its young people and draws in more from other locales. Young entrepreneurs coming to Buffalo are often from larger cities with these types of amenities and this vibe. As someone who returned to her hometown of Buffalo after leaving for 35 years, I can say that Buffalo CarShare is one of the reasons I am here and want to stay.

Thank you Buffalo CarShare!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Member Testimonial: Tim White

In 2007, I gave up car ownership for the adventures and cost savings of biking, walking, and using public transit across Western New York. In 2012, I was promoted to the role of Marketing Coordinator at Theatre of Youth (TOY), Buffalo's only professional theatre dedicated solely to child audiences. While TOY is an exceptional company to work for with great co-workers and good benefits, the wage I earn is typical of most non-profit administrators. On my salary, I can't reasonably afford reliable car ownership. Yet, for my job I often need to travel to the outer suburbs for meetings, promoting at events, distributing lawn signs, putting up posters, etc. As you can imagine, Buffalo CarShare quickly became the perfect solution for my needs.

Buffalo CarShare provides me with the expanded reach that I need as a professional. Just this past Wednesday, I reserved a CarShare and visited Sweet Home middle school in Amherst to speak with teachers about bringing their students to the theatre. Without Buffalo CarShare, I wouldn't have been able to reach the school and I wouldn't have been able to transport all of the flyers, brochures, and equipment that I needed for the job.

Buffalo CarShare is not only essential for my work; but it has also allowed me to live a rich and vibrant lifestyle on a modest income. I know for a fact that the majority of the dollars I would have sunk into car ownership are being poured right back into our local economy. I love that I live in a city where I have enough disposable income left over to pay for the amazing music, art, theatre, and food that Buffalo's talented citizens create.

With some of the savings that CarShare affords me, I recently took up my lifelong dream of learning to play the cello. When I need to transport my cello, Buffalo CarShare is there for me. If my cello needs repair or maintenance, I simply reserve a CarShare and whisk the unwieldy instrument to Monaco's, a specialty strings shop in Getzville. In this example alone, every dollar I'm not spending on car ownership is staying in our local economy; whether it's for the lessons that a local professional cellist gives me or for the family-owned shop that rents out and maintains my cello.

In closing, losing Buffalo CarShare would be detrimental to my adventurous low-cost lifestyle. I have loved living in Buffalo over the last several years, but losing Buffalo CarShare could be a deal-breaker for me. If the city of Buffalo and the state of New York can't find a way to continue to support my simple and environmentally responsible lifestyle, if the state of New York refuses to pass insurance legislation that encourages the kind of brilliant grassroots innovation that Buffalo CarShare represents; then I will simply take my entire future, potential family, friends, taxable earnings, and home ownership to another growing city in another state.

I hope it doesn't come to that.

Thank you to the entire staff of CarShare for continuing to fight for an incredible service that truly makes a huge impact on the lives of its members and on our community as a whole. You have my support.

Tim White - Member since June 2012