City Inches Towards Bringing Back Car Sharing

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Back in January of 2008, the nation's two largest car-sharing programs, Zip Car and Flex Car, merged leaving many car-free Angelenos hopeful that L.A. would see a largest car-sharing program come to Los Angeles.  Instead, the opposite happened, and car sharing disappeared from every part of the city except the areas surrounding UCLA and USC.  Since then the City has taken baby steps to encourage the growth of a car-sharing program.

So far, the city's efforts have been less than inspiring.  Rather than embrace the kind of far-reaching reform that could change the way car-sharing companies and entrepreneurs the city has taken a more cautious route and a year after Zip Cars practically zipped out of the city the city is one step away from creating a program that would allocate street parking spaces for licensed and approved car sharing programs. The City Council Transportation Committee directed the City Attorney to write a legal document that would allow the city to dedicate parking for a car-sharing program.  The Committee will hear their proposal on Wednesday.

In other words, the new program would take away general street parking to create dedicated parking just for vehicles that are a part of a car-share program.   There's just one problem: thus far the car sharing companies are most interested in expanding service around the college campuses and not so excited about the rest of the city.

If the city wants to get really radical about enticing a city-wide carsharing program to come into being, it could try to follow the Philadelphia Model, where the city divests itself of an over-expensive and easily exploited take-home program for city-employees and invests into a car-sharing program for city-employees.  With such a large employer backing the program, the car-sharing company can afford to invest in a city that hasn't already proved that it can support a profitible car-sharing program.

But of course, all of this assumes that car-sharing is even the kind of program that the city should be trying to bring back.  Matthew Roth, one of our friends in SF Streetsblog, wonders if car-sharing even reduces VMT.  To join that conversation, or to read about San Francisco's car-sharing experience, click here.

Photo: Poppyseed Bandit/Flickr