City Makes Space for Zipcars on Public Streets

3_9_09_zip.jpgZipcar parked at Gramercy Park in NYC in 2006. Photo: NannyinNY/Flickr

For car-sharing to every truly work, the cars used in the program need to be easily accessible to the members who have access to rent them.  To that end, the City Council has cleared out 10 parking spaces near USC and UCLA to pilot the return of Zipcars to the streets of Los Angeles.

Longtime Streetsblog readers will remember that Los Angeles used to be served by Flexcar, the only national competition that Zipcar faced.  But, after the two car-share giants merged just over a year ago instead of more service, Zipcar shrank local car sharing back inside the college campuses of USC and UCLA leaving many subscribers high and dry.  Now, to their credit, the city is working with Zipcar to try and slowly bring the service back.  If the service in and around the two college campuses is successful, the Council promises an expanded program for Hollywood, the Downtown and Venice.

While the Council deserves credit for promoting alternative transportation at the expense of public parking, this is just a baby step to getting a city-wide car sharing program.  If the city wants to live up to its rhetoric on the importance of car sharing, it could always embrace the Philadelphia model, where they cut their take-home program for city employees and use the money to embrace in a car-sharing program that could be used for both city employees and residents.

For a full copy of the press from Councilman Bill Rosendahl release announcing the program, read on after the jump.


Pilot Program Expected to Relieve Traffic and Help the Environment

Los Angeles City Council gave the “green-light” today on a car share
pilot program ready to launch this summer in neighborhoods near Los
Angeles’ two largest universities.

Zipcar, the
world’s leading car sharing company, will partner with the City to
provide access to vehicles by the hour or the day in highly populated
areas near UCLA and USC. The Department of Transportation
has identified 10 parking spots in each of the neighborhoods for the
exclusive use of the car sharing vehicles.

“We must
constantly seek out innovative ways to empower our residents with more
transportation choices,” said Councilmember Bill Rosendahl,
who championed the program through the Council’s Transportation
Committee. “Car sharing has been proven to reduce traffic congestion
and vehicle emissions, increase transit ridership, and save users money
compared to owning and operating private vehicles.”

The program is designed
to give residents an alternative to owning their own cars and the
related costs of parking, insurance, depreciation, fuel, and
maintenance, which add up to $8,000 per year for the average driver. For
car sharing users, all of these costs are wrapped up in a flat hourly
rate starting at $8 per hour, and users only pay for the time that they
are driving around.

"Car sharing programs provide
Los Angeles residents with another real alternative to owning a car and
will help reduce traffic and air pollution. It’s a great
opportunity for people who live in areas where shops, work, school, and
home are within walking distance and a car isn’t always needed," said
Council President Eric Garcetti.

The City will
allow Zipcar to use the on street parking spaces free of charge for the
one year pilot program to help demonstrate the potential of car sharing
in Los Angeles. Spaces without parking meters were selected to avoid any loss of revenue to the City. The
City selected neighborhoods near UCLA and USC to build on the
successful partnerships that those universities have already developed
with Zipcar.

Councilmember Bernard Parks is proud to bring this program to his constituents in University Park: "It is a great pilot program because the area is parking poor,” said Parks. “Car sharing will offer more flexibility to the students and residents in and around USC."

Prospective car sharing users sign up online at
to enroll in the program and receive a free membership card. Members
can make reservations online or on the phone from 10 minutes to a year
in advance. To begin the reservation, the user waves the membership card over a sensor inside the windshield to unlock the vehicle. The ignition keys are stored in the glove box. At
the end of a trip, the user returns the car to the home space, waves
the membership card over the sensor, and the trip is complete.

City’s partnership with Zipcar is an innovative way to reduce our
carbon footprint as well as the number of cars on the road, especially
in the congested areas around UCLA. Zipcars will help
reduce emissions, trips to the pump, and traffic congestion," said
Councilmember Jack Weiss whose district includes UCLA.

members report an average monthly savings of over $500 compared to car
ownership. Car share programs are good for the planet and the wallet.
National studies have shown that a car share vehicle removes 15
privately owned vehicles from the roads, greatly reducing each driver’s
impact on the environment. Many of the car share vehicles in this pilot
program will be hybrids.

Upon the successful completion
of the pilot program, the City will consider expanding car sharing to
other suitable areas including Venice, Hollywood, Downtown and other

  • Is it wrong that I hate Zipcar? UCLA has great transit service and so does USC (cycle or walk your Trojan but to the Blue Line and in one stop you’re in downtown LA which is the only place in LA that you can almost get anywhere with just one bus or train,) so why is Zipcar providing people with in my opinion is the methadone of the trying to get off their car addiction set, the easy to rent personal vehicle?

    Ok, I said it. I feel better. I know many of you don’t agree, but it had to be said.

    Boo!! to the regular car rental.


  • Spokker

    Automobiles are an important part of our transportation network. To say that cars are bad across the board is extreme.

    Despite my insistence on mass transit, I still *like* to drive, just not through congested LA. I love Sunday drives. I love taking off spontaneously with my girlfriend. I love road trips.

    I currently own a car but only drive it when transit cannot take me where I need to go. My school and work commutes are both taken by transit. But if I want to go to say, Joshua Tree National park to see the stars, no bus or train will take me there. If I want to travel somewhere late at night, I will have to take along the car.

    An established daily commute is simpler on mass transit than a spontaneous trip on mass transit in unfamiliar territory. If a infrequent or one-time trip looks to be like a pain in the ass on transit, I will take the car.

    Perhaps if I had Zipcar in my neighborhood, I would ditch my car entirely.

    In my view, Zipcar might entice more people to give up their own car and rely on mass transit. By having Zipcar for those what-if situations it removes the fear of being “trapped” by transit.

    I hope it becomes more widespread, more affordable and more popular.

  • Stephen

    Zipcar is great here in the Bay Area. There are numerous locations in SF and Berkeley. It’s great for running errands in different locations. Say you wanted to hit up Trader Joes, but also pick up your dry cleaning in a different shopping center. It would take significantly longer to do that by Metro.

    Or, you could do what I did last weekend… take the girlfriend into the city and get off at 24th-Mission BART, pickup a Zipcar for one hour to Twin Peaks and back. Cheaper than a taxi and you don’t need to call a taxi when you’re ready to go back! I’d definitely do the same thing if they had car sharing at Hollywood/Western or Vermont/Sunset for the Griffith Observatory.

  • Spokker

    About the Griffith Observatory, there is weekend shuttle service from Vermont/Sunset that takes you to the observatory. I’ve taken it before and I found it to be pretty good.

  • Don’t underestimate the entertainment value of taking public transit at night in LA. It’s so exciting. Will the bus actually show up. Will you be stranded and end up having a convesation with some person with a sidewalk condo. Who knows. Maybe someone will try to kidnap you while waiting.

    And if the bus does come, well who knows the interesting people you may meet while on the two or 60.

    Here’s a link to one of my late night bus trips.

    Ever watch someone with all their belongings in a bag and one of those belongings is a crack pipe? And to watch the person scramble on the dirty bus floor to get that crack pipe and then yell at you because you’re watching them do this crazy thing? I don’t know where in LA you can have that kind of experience for only 1.25.

    The destination is part of the fun!!!


  • I’m actually of the mind that walking up to the Griffith Observatory from Vermont/Sunset isn’t bad. Granted, it takes awhile to get through the neighborhoods on foot. But once you enter the park, there’s a secluded hiking trail to the Observatory with nice views along the way.

  • Stephen

    Yeah, the Griffith Obs Shuttle is great… it’s too bad it doesn’t run on weekdays (when it’s simply the Los Feliz DASH).

  • Mdogg

    It’s not at all to hate zipcar. I hate their guts. THEIR GUTS. They bought and subsequently neutered the excellent ride-share program, FlexCar. Once upon a time, it was the perfect fallback for the carfree lifestyle liver who occasionally needed to make a trip to Ikea/ where-ever.

  • Zipcar/car share will never work in LA because people aren’t given comprehensive reason to get rid of their cars;

    Browne; I thought you WANTED people to ride buses, but it’s clear that you do not. Crackhead stories go a long way in keeping people away from buses or…no that’s all they do.

  • Ramon, I’m not a liar. Shit does happen on the bus and that shit should be talked about, because when people do get on the bus they are going to kind of notice.

    I mean really get on the two at 2am and tell me if you would view that as an ABC Family experience.

    And plus I’m just saying what I see, if you think I’m an advocate or something, well that would be like thinking that Amy Winehouse is a good role model for girls, not that I’m Amy Winehouse or I smoke crack, but I’m really not the one to look for in regards to positive happy talk. Funny, maybe, positive, well if reality is positive then maybe I am.

    Get on the bus at 1am and tell me what you see Ramonchu, maybe my perspective is tainted owing to my alcohol abuse or maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the bus at 2am is a big party with flowers and candy.


  • Spokker

    “I thought you WANTED people to ride buses, but it’s clear that you do not. Crackhead stories go a long way in keeping people away from buses”

    Mass transit should stand on its own merits. People shouldn’t ride it *just* because driving sucks or is too expensive. They should ride it because it’s fast, clean, safe and efficient. If it isn’t any of those things, people are still going to stick with the crappy alternatives. It’s up to the transit agencies and the riders to meet each other halfway on the safe and cleanliness part.

    The guys in the back of the bus drinking Coronas and spitting sunflower seeds on the floor (I’ve seen it) are going to turn people off to riding mass transit. People like this have obviously failed in their responsibility to act like decent human beings. Metro has also failed in their responsibility to enforce the rules. Undercover officers sweeping buses and kicking these jerks off, making them wait 15-30 minutes for the next one, might change their tune.

    But no, money for unmanned turnstiles that will be evaded all day, every day will do the trick.

  • This comment stream seems to be quickly deteriorating into arguments about crackheads, but my question is simple: Do we know when the 20 new Zipcars actually get put into place, ready for renting?

  • Hey Siel,

    I talked to Zipcar. No timeline yet, they need to wait and see how long it takes the city to actually get the spaces ready…They did say they’re coming though…

  • I am excited about carsharing. As a former employee of Flexcar, which later merged with Zipcar, I felt the members and potential members were being left out with the new direction of the company.

    Zipcar is only interested in serving the populations living on college campuses, thus leaving a criticial loss for permanent residents who solely rely on public transportation.

    LAXCarshare was started to serve the residents of Los Angeles.

  • Yasmin

    Why are there no zip cars at union station in los angeles? I take the amtrak up from San Diego all the time and need to only be in LA for a few hours. Zip cars at the train station seem so obvious to me.

  • There is a LAXCarShare car parked in Lot D @ Union Station. Check them out.


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