Should City Provide Dedicated Parking for Car Sharing?


Last fall when car sharing giants Zipcar and Flexcar merged there were some bad side effects for the City of Los Angeles.  After the merger, Zipcars began to disappear from the streets as the merged company decided to focus on bringing car sharing to college campuses because they were losing money on their other urban investments.  This move left many car-free residents who relied on Zipcar or Flexcar for the occasional emergency both high and dry.

The City Council and LADOT are seeking to remedy that problem, but so far the only company interested in helping out is Zipcar.  The city has twice requested interested parties to submit proposals for the areas outside of college campuses, Hollywood and the Downtown; but all Zipcar is willing to do is expand their campus services to the areas just outside of UCLA and USC for a one year-pilot program.  The Council’s offer to provide dedicated parking at the cost of signage and street paint garnered no interest from any of the other car share companies.

This Wednesday, LADOT is going to the Council’s Transportation Committee this week to seek guidance.  Is Zipcar’s proposal to expand their services worthy of dedicated parking by itself or should the city require the service for all four of its proposed locations?  If Zipcar’s expansion goes forward and is successful it could lead to further car sharing opportunities; but on the other hand all that Zipcar is promising is to expand service in the only areas that are already served.

Any comments that are provided will be presented to the committee this Wednesday.

Photo: Poppyseed Bandit/Flickr 

  • Gary Kavanagh

    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.

  • Jesus Christ!

    Is there anything the LADOT won’t do fr the private automobile?

  • Dan K.

    Zip and Flex are both great ideas, worthy of support. But the sad truth is that both are also much more expensive than standard Enterprise rent-a-car, which has dozens of neighborhood locations all over Los Angeles, and will even pick you up at your house, take you to their office,

    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.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    This sounds like an issue of urban design rather than corporate motivation. ZipCar has cars all over San Francisco, not just near university campuses. They will put in cars any place that has the density to support them. The competing service, City Car Share, is also city wide. Both companies also install cars in the private garages of high-rise condo and apartment buildings.

    I doubt that Enterprise can compete with City Car Share’s economics for short trips. For one thing, I can rent a car in under one minute with City Car Share. For another, I get billed in quarter-hour increments and it’s only $5/hour. Normally there is a point where renting a car from a regular car rental agency becomes more affordable. I find that for short trips of less than 4 hours within the city the pricing favors the car share over the rentals. For long trips out of the city, the unlimited mileage of the rental agency works better.

    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.

  • The cynics would say that this is a way of a company cashing in on the green trend.

    Car sharing is the great debate. In London, the Tfl (the local Government) doesn’t even recognise 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.

  • 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 agree that LA is a less obvious car-share candidate than SF, just for reasons of density, but also for reasons of culture. It’s harder to find a high enough concentration of people who are willing to go without a car, and rely on the shared vehicle, anywhere outside of a large on-campus student population.

    I also agree that (at least for me personally), I would almost never use a Zipcar – to me, they fill the same niche as a bike: short trips around town nearby. If I want to get away for the weekend, Enterprise is clearly the way to go. If I want to go pick up some lumber from Home Depot… well, that’s what my Bikes at Work trailer is for! (

  • Gary Kavanagh

    Some reasons why I would love to see some zip cars in my area, which being by SMC has a strong youth demographic that doesn’t necessarily own cars. I hate paperwork, and although I bike nearly everywhere, sometimes something unexpected comes up where having a car becomes useful. I don’t want to schedule an appointment for an office that is likely only open during the day, I want to slide a card and go. Also, for longer trips car rental services are rarely cheaper if you are under 25, since most rental places add an extra $20-$30 to penalize youth, regardless of driving record.

  • Charles Dougherty

    Zipcar’s pull-out may have scorched the earth for car sharing in L.A. If I were another car-sharing company and watched my competitor fail in L.A., all on its own, I wouldn’t feel too excited about following its footsteps.

    I’d support providing on-street spaces for car sharing, but not for Zipcar. Given the way Zipcar violated the public trust when it clandestinely pulled out of L.A. this February, why should we feel good about giving this for-profit company free public space?


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