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Hood River residents have a new transportation option: Electric vehicle car sharing

Portland-based nonprofit FORTH has been testing electric vehicle car sharing programs in rural parts of Oregon, including the Columbia River Gorge.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Car sharing programs tend to focus on cities and large urban areas, but a local Portland nonprofit is working to bring flexible car options to rural areas — and improving access to electric vehicles at the same time.

Portland-based FORTH is an organization dedicated to transportation electrification, tackling accessibility to mobility while battling climate change. They've been experimenting with EV car sharing programs in more rural parts of Oregon, including the Columbia River Gorge.

The "CRuSE Project" (Clean Rural Shared Electric Mobility) has placed EVs in several more rural Oregon towns. Hood River has five new vehicles, strategically placed in areas of need.

"I like the ease of it. I mean, it's so easy with your phone app, you get in and go and it's quiet and it, it's peppy," said Sky Vaday, a property manager at Rio Bella Apartments, where one of the five EVs is housed. 

It's a short walk from a Columbia Area Transit (CAT) stop, providing an additional access point for residents who live further away.

"We see car share as a way to bring the affordability of EVs to everyone's doorstep," said program manager Kelly Yearick.

Credit: KGW

The general cost is $5 per hour hour, and is reduced to $2 per hour for car shares located within affordable housing communities. The CRuSE Project is funded through June.

"By bringing in our experience and our expertise and our funding opportunities, we can try out programs, figure out what works in a particular community, and then hopefully turn the keys over to the community to then run that program for themselves," said Yearick.

The idea of EV car sharing is new to the Gorge area. Amy Schlappi, executive director of Hood River County Transit District, said she welcomes the additional options the shared EV project brings to Hood River. 

Among their many responsibilities to local residents, CAT serves a vast area and oversees the Columbia Gorge Express, which makes seven trips daily between Portland and Hood River.

Schlappi said she sees the addition of EV car sharing as an important opportunity to help reduce miles travelled in single-occupancy vehicles.

"It's kind of big when you think of it, and encouraging people to use those other options, I think is a wonderful thing," she said. "You want to take the bus out from Portland and then you want to potentially use a car to do things during the day, and then you can walk to the wineries at night not having to worry about a car, where you're gonna park it, or anything else like that. So there, it's very complimentary. And it's important for the gorge environmentally. And, I think socially."

Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at cmcginness@kgw.com or reach out on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram

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