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Antonio Villaraigosa

City Celebrates Expanded Zip Car Near UCLA and USC

1:27 PM PDT on September 14, 2009

Earlier today Mayor Villaraigosa, city officials, and representatives from Zipcar, UCLA and USC celebrated the arrival of 12 new off-campus parking spaces reserved specifically for car-sharing near the two college campuses. The hope is that if these spaces prove profitable for the car-sharing company than they can partner with the city for more of these types of spaces in places other than on or adjacent to college campuses.

While the twelve spaces are good news, even considering that the spaces happen to be very near the only Zipcar spaces still in existence in the city, Villaraigosa and others seem to have gotten a little carried away in the impact this will have on the car-culture of Los Angeles. From the press release:

Los Angeles may be the car capital of the world, but through this partnershipamong universities, Zipcar and the City of Los Angeles we are opening the doorto make car ownership optional for people who live or work here," said MayorAntonio Villaraigosa. "Providing alternatives to car ownership will helpimprove the environment and the city's traffic congestion.

That's a lot of sound for twelve converted parking spaces. Think of how much congestion could be saved by a large-scale parking reform plan, or a car-sharing plan that was available city-wide.

If the idea of city-wide car sharing seems a pipe dream after car-sharing all but disappeared from the city in January of 2008, then fear not. Other cities have brought car-sharing back from the brink by subsidizing the program by reducing the take-home car fleet offered to city staff and offices and using that money to subsidize car-sharing city-wide. Philadelphia has saved millions of dollars from this strategy, and other cities around the country have followed suit.

By this point everyone except Councilman Tom LaBonge, who wants to grow the take-home program, knows that there are serious problems with the city's take-home program. Former Comptroller Laura Chick outlined the many ways the city was wasting money and resources by providing such a large fleet with such lax requirements, and Mayor Villaraigosa has twice tried to reform the program. The first time he was thwarted by a City Council that freaked out at the thought of losing the cars their staffers were given to drive around the district. The second time he pushed through some minor reforms that made the system less broken.

But with the city focused on car-sharing for one day, and celebrating the twelve new spaces that have been opened today is a great day to remind them that true reform of our parking system and vehicle fleet system could happen together which could save the city millions of dollars annually and an untold amount of Greenhouse Gases.

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