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Car Sharing

Should City Embrace Better Way of Car Sharing?

1:27 PM PDT on September 2, 2008


Angelenos that find themselves dependent on a car for whatever reason have found themselves with few options since the Zipcar and Flexcar merged together and basically ended service for everyone that does not live near a college campus.  While the city seems helpless to bring car sharing to any area not adjacent to USC or UCLA, other cities have replaced large parts of their vehicle fleet with a city-wide car sharing program.

For example, in Philadelphia the city replaced 330 vehicles in its fleet with a car sharing program that saves the city millions of dollars each year and provides for vehicular mobility for city workers when needed.  With the finnancial stability of the city helping to stabilize their budget, the non-profit Philly car-share was able to expand its membership to over 30,000 residents.  Philly Car Share boasts:

Today, an amazing environmental movement is happening in
Philadelphia. Over 30,000 Philadelphians (to date) have traded in car
ownership for PhillyCarShare, walking, biking, and public transit.
Members, after joining, report driving 53% fewer miles, consuming
nearly one million fewer gallons of gas, owning 8,000 fewer vehicles,
and saving $33 million annually -- money that gets reinvested largely
into Philadelphia's local economy.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has
embraced PhillyCarShare as an integrated part of its culture and its
transportation system. A recent issue of Philadelphia Style Magazine,
for example, highlights PhillyCarShare alongside SEPTA, biking, and
walking, as everyday sustainable transportation options. And public
agencies have supported PhillyCarShare's growth in virtually every way.

Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, we continue to be somewhat behind the times when it comes to how our elected leaders look at their vehicle fleets.

At the same time car sharing was zipping out of the city, the City Council was debating whether or not to reduce the city-owned car fleet.  Some Council Members argued that by taking away the city-owned fuel-efficient cars that workers currently drive and replacing them with the cars workers own is bad for the environment.  Others didn't even bother to claim they were thinking of the public good;  they opposed the Mayor's proposal to save the city millions of dollars because they wanted to protect perks for themselves and their friends.

At the county level, in July a grand jury slammed LA County for buying luxury cars for county employees to cruise around, even though many of the drivers aren't qualified to drive a county owned vehicle.

Zipcar and Flexcar have proved unable to meet the demand for a car share program in Los Angeles, and we know that historically car-sharing hasn't been a money maker in Los Angeles.  If the city wants to provide real leadership and reduce residents car dependency, then they should follow the example of the City of Brotherly Love and reduce their car fleet and invest in creating a city-wide car sharing program of its own.

Millions of dollars, thousands of vehicle miles traveled, and the fate of car sharing in Los Angeles depend on it,.

Photo: Nica456/Flickr

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