Village Trustee Jan Pate hasn’t owned a car in about 10 years. For her, it’s worked out fine.

She moved from South Carolina to Chicago in 1994. Though she still had a car at the time, she lived in the South Loop and was able to walk to work. If she needed to go anywhere else, like to O’Hare Airport, she took the el.

After a while, she realized she was using her car less and less, but still paying for it.

Pate soon ditched her car and all the financial hassles that went with it.

“I started to think, OK, there’s car insurance, a car payment, it was starting to get damaged, and I thought, something here doesn’t make sense.”

When she moved to Oak Park in 2000, Pate-still car-less-was able to use public transportation or could just walk to where she needed to go.

But after her election to the village board in April, Pate signed up in May for the I-GO car sharing program, which expanded to Oak Park last year. The newly elected trustee thought she might need a car with the increased demands on her time.

I-GO, created by the Neighborhood Technology Center, services Chicago, Oak Park and other surrounding suburbs. The program isn’t only for convenience and cost saving-members use the cars primarily for quick trips or to run errands, and they’re free from insurance and car note payments. The program is also good for the environment, users say.

I-GO has 160 cars, mostly in Chicago. A city or village typically has a total of four cars with two at a specific location.

Oak Park started with two cars parked at The Avenue Garage at Oak Park Avenue and North Boulevard. Pate lives near The Avenue Garage and uses the cars there.

In May, the Holley Court Garage off Marion Street became a second location with two additional cars.

All of the I-GO cars are low-emission vehicles (LEV), and one-third are hybrids. Two of the Oak Park cars are hybrid vehicles.

But Pate wasn’t thinking green 10 years ago.

“In ’96 when I sold my car, I really didn’t have any great altruistic or green feelings at that time,” said Pate, development director for the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park. “It was more that the car was just something I didn’t need and want,” she said. “But as time has passed and I really thought about it, I’ve become much more sensitive to issues related to greenhouse gas emissions and things that we can do.”

The I-GO program has about 6,000 members, most of whom use the cars for the convenience and to save money. There’s a one-time $75 charge to join and a $25 yearly renewal-and members can pre-schedule to use the cars 24/7.

But there are those members who like the fact that the cars are environmentally-friendly, said Richard Kosmacher, sales and marketing manager for I-GO.

The low-emission vehicles are an industry standard, he said. Because they’re LEV’s, they produce less emissions than most other cars on the road, Kosmacher noted.

And with more I-GO cars on the road, there’s less traffic congestion and pollution, he said.

“They think this is a great way to enable people to save money and help the environment,” he said of members, who also don’t pay for gas or parking.

Members can schedule to use a car by phone or at I-GO’s website. Members use a smart card to unlock the vehicle and access its keys, which are inside the cars. When they’re done, members return the cars to their location, lock it up and the vehicles are ready for another user.

Kosmacher added that I-GO is exploring adding other vehicles with new technologies to the fleet, such as cars that run on electricity.

He also noted that I-GO users, based on member surveys the organization periodically does, use mass transit more as members than they did with their own cars.

Pate still takes the train and hasn’t used I-GO that much since joining. She said that might change in the fall and winter.

Pate calculates that in the last 10 years, she’s saved about $30,000 just from likely car note payments by not having a car.

Pate said she’s still saving money using I-GO.

“It’s a small contribution and I have to say that it’s self-serving. I don’t have a car payment. I don’t have the insurance and maintenance, and God knows I don’t have to deal with gasoline,” she said.

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