By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Nov 04, 2007 at 5:38 AM Photography: Damien Legault

While it seems silly to own a car in Chicago, Milwaukee has always been a very vehicle heavy city. While that's probably not going to change any time soon, there are a couple of companies that are doing their part to make travel easier for people who are -- or choose to be -- car-less in Milwaukee.

Last year arrived, affording Milwaukeeans the opportunity to travel to places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis for as little as a dollar. This year, Flexcar -- a national car-sharing service -- partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to offer on-demand access to a fleet of low-emission vehicles.

The company worked with the UWM Department of Housing and Auxiliary Services to provide cars to students in need of temporary transportation for errands or other reasons, but the service is also available to anyone -- faculty, friends, neighbors -- who needs to get around Milwaukee, or even leave the city for the weekend.

Recently, it launched its car-sharing for undergrads program, the first of its kind to offer car rentals to students under age 21. UWM is one of more than 35 college campuses across the country providing Flexcar's services to 18-20-year-olds, a group which comprises the largest portion of most campus populations.

University Housing became interested in Flexcar after many of the students in the residence halls -- particularly freshmen and sophomores, who cannot keep a private car on campus -- expressed a need. Of course, all drivers must first meet certain eligibility requirements in order to participate in the program, including a clean driving record, supplemental insurance and parental approval.

"UWM is proud to team up with Flexcar to offer the campus community this vital service," says Scott Peak, director of University Housing. "It is our hope that the program will have the added benefit of reducing the number of vehicles parked on or near campus, and that it will encourage more people to choose modes of transportation that are friendlier to the environment."

Becoming a member beings with paying the annual fee of $35 -- waived if you register before Nov. 28 -- and getting a Flexcard, an electronic "key" that opens the cars. There are six vehicles stationed on UWM's campus for use, including Honda Civic hybrids, Honda Elements and an Accord.

Members then pay an hourly ($7) or daily ($60) rate that includes gas, insurance, maintenance, a reserved parking space, 150 free miles per trip, roadside assistance and 24-hour customer service. Reservations are made online or over the phone and when the person is done with the vehicle, they return it to one of six UWM parking lot spaces.

"Flexcar is perfect for today's college students" said Mark Norman, Flexcar's CEO. "(It) makes getting a car on campus easy and frees up hard-earned money for tuition or entertainment."

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”