Streetsbloggers Write on Future of Car Sharing in LA

The following letter will be faxed to all the members of the City Council Transportation Committee.  The letter is a compilation of reader comments to an article asking for people’s opinions whether or not the city should set aside dedicated parking for car sharing programs.

Given the success of this article, expect others soliciting reader’s opinions for the purpose of informing elected leaders of your opinions.  The letter is available after the jump.

 

July 23, 2008

Dear City Councilmember,

I recently asked readers for their opinions on whether or not the city should set aside parking for car sharing programs.  We hope that these comments help you as you prepare for today’s Transportation Committee Meeting.

Reader response was mixed.  One reader wondered why the city is so anxious to do more for cars and others expressed frustration that car-sharing programs aren’t more widely available in Los Angeles.

Reader Gary Kavanaugh noted the value that car sharing has for those choosing a car-free lifestyle or those under the age of 25:

“As someone who bikes nearly all the time, I’ve given a lot of thought to going car free, but I still drive two or three times a month for long trips and hauling extra weight or passengers. I started looking into Flexcar which had some locations in Santa Monica, but they completely excluded any one under 25 from participating, so as a 24 year old with a perfect driving record it was frustrating. When I heard of the Zip Car merger I was extremely excited because Zip Car not only does not bar young drivers they seemed to encourage a youth image. Then came the crushing news all locations not at Universities were out of commission. If Zip Car had locations in Santa Monica, I would have sold my car already and been happily done with car ownership.”

Reader Dan K wondered whether the Zipcar model would work in Los Angeles:

“Yes, there are hassles if you don’t have a credit card – they’ll take a $250 deposit off your debit card – but the rates run as low a s$30 a day with unlimited mileage, which is a lot cheaper than Zip/Flex (so both models impose money hardships, in their own ways.) I’m not trying to post an Enterprise ad, but again, in a sprawling city like LA, when I need a car, I find it pretty hard to bike or take the bus more than ten miles to the nearest Zip location when I’ve got Enterprise literally blocks away.

My point: the Zip/Flex model may not work for Los Angeles, as much as we all wish it would.”

After discussing how car sharing works in San Francisco, Jeffery W. Baker wondered whether further concessions were needed to get Zipcar working.

“As for urban planning policy, San Francisco also makes concessions to car share services. Parking spaces committed to car sharing do not count against a developer’s maximum parking spaces per dwelling. Perhaps similar concessions could exhort ZipCar to move into some new, less academic neighborhoods."

Reader Gareth noted that in other parts of the world, car sharing isn’t even recognized as a congestion reliever.

“Car sharing is the great debate. In London, the Tfl (the local Government) doesn’t even recognize car-sharing as a way to cut down traffic congestion. We don’t really have lanes in the UK either dedicated to such things, especially in London.”

Last, Zane Selvans pointed out that Zipcar only operates when revenue is guaranteed when it comes to providing service to private operations.

“So, the only reason that Zipcar does its deals in SoCal with universities, is that the universities guarantee their revenue. (I know this because I’m trying to organize a Zipcar program at Caltech in Pasadena). I.e., in order to justify the purchase of the vehicle, and the maintenance overhead, the university in question has to promise to make up any difference between the break-even cost, and the actual revenue generated by the vehicle, which works out to be about $1600/month/vehicle, with a minimum of 2 vehicles for each campus (so that even when one is in the shop, the other can be available for rentals). I’m sure if LADOT wanted to guarantee the revenues, Zipcar would be happy to oblige – but I doubt they do, and I don’t know that I’d agree with it if they did.”

I hope these comments help as you debate LADOT’s proposal to provide for guaranteed parking in the neighborhoods surrounding USC and UCLA.

Thank You for Your Attention,

Damien Newton

  • I used flexcar a bit before zipcar took them over and removed half of the LA fleet (sad)….

    but a city sponsored car share program is a wonderful idea.

    Put bike racks on th back of the cars!! Super easy to bike to a car-share.

    Again, great letter!!!!

  • Months ago back when Flexcar still lived and this issue was initially in front of Councilmember Gruel and her transportation committee I was a huge endorser of the idea of dedicated on-street parking for shared-cars. Then, as Ingrid point out above, Zipcar came to town and opted to strip out Flexcar’s vehicle distribution and cater strictly to the college crowd by relocating some of the fleet to USC and UCLA.

    I’ll never forgive Zipcar for so blatantly foresaking Flexcar members such as myself, and its now dampened my enthusiasm for shared-car parking programs; Zipcar basically said “fuck you” to me and I don’t want them benefiting from any city support. That may not be a very objective or mature stance, and indeed beyond whatever company name is on the letterhead, I have serious reservations as to whether a car-sharing program can succeed in this region. Flexcar wasn’t perfect by any means but it was more of what car-sharing programs should be.

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