Want a convenient, economical and earth-friendly way to drive without owning a car?

Two new Toyota Priuses are ready and waiting today on the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus for licensed drivers – UST students, faculty and staff as well as neighborhood folks – for use by the hour or by the day, thanks to Hourcar, a Twin Cities car-sharing service.

The new Hourcars were made possible by substantial contributions from St. Thomas ($9,000), the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee ($10,000) and the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association ($1,000). A matching grant from the McKnight Foundation covered more than half of the investment, making participation possible for St. Thomas and its neighbors. Hourcar hubs also are located at Macalester and Augsburg colleges and in other neighborhoods along bus lines in the Twin Cities.

Administered by the nonprofit Neighborhood Energy Connection in St. Paul, Hourcar was named among the area’s best services in Mpls.-St. Paul Magazine’s 2006 Best of the Twin Cities issue.

Hourcar members drive energy-efficient automobiles for a nominal monthly membership and rates by the mile and the hour or day. They avoid the substantial costs of car ownership, which can include car payments, depreciation, registration fees, gas, insurance, repair and maintenance as well as a place to park.

The Twin Cities’ 25-car Hourcar fleet includes Honda’s Element, Fit and Insight models and Toyota’s Scion, Prius and Yaris models. Each is known for energy efficiency and low emissions.

For details on membership eligibility, visit the Hourcar Web site.  Licensed drivers 18 and older may apply. All members must have had no major traffic violations in the past three years and no alcohol-related violations for the last seven; must sign Hourcar’s member agreement and complete a new-member orientation.

The $50 one-time application fee will be waived for St. Thomas students, faculty and staff through Feb. 28.

Rates are available for groups (households, businesses and nonprofits) as well as for individuals. Academic or other St. Thomas offices are eligible to apply as nonprofit group members.

Two membership levels are available to meet varying budget and car-use needs. Fees cover gas, insurance and vehicle upkeep. Each car comes equipped with a fleet gas card, and Hourcar members have access to all vehicles in the network. Hourcar members are given special key fobs to open the cars and drive them at their appointed times.

The cars will be parked in dedicated spots on campus: one immediately east of the Selby/Finn entrance to campus in Lot A, and the other immediately west of the Anderson Parking Facility – the easternmost metered spot on the north side of the drive aisle (Lot N).

 Hourcar reservations are taken online 24 hours a day, or call (651) 221-4462.