City Continues Slow Growth Model for Car Share

The LADOT report focuses on their relationship with car share giant Zip Car, but locally owned and operated LAX Car share operates in Downtown, Mid-Town and (yes) near the airport. Photo:##

Last week, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation released a report on the slow-growth success of car sharing in Los Angeles.  LADOT recommended renewing its program of providing free on-street parking for Zip Car vehicles up to 40 spaces so that the current level of car share is preserved while other options are examined.  Even if all 40 spaces were full, and they’re not, there would be less than on Zip Car for every 100,000 people in Los Angeles, a much smaller investment than what the car sharing giant has put in to San Francisco which boasts hundreds of cars.

Car sharing is considered by many urban advocates as a key component of encouraging a car-free lifestyle.  The argument goes that families that own cars for a couple hours of travel per week, i.e. ones where people work from home or within walking/biking/transit distance to work, but still own a car for longer trips can get rid of their car if there’s a reliable car share system nearby.

Noted author and researcher Todd Littman noted in 1999 that car ownership is inefficient.  In “Evaluating Carsharing Benefits,” a publication by the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, Littman shows the tremendous economic benefits for residents and businesses of having car share nearby.

Yet, Los Angeles’ car share program is far from complete.  If I wanted to use car share from my Westside abode, my options would be to travel five miles to UCLA or travel to the airport to a car available through the locally owned LAX Car Share.  That’s not too terrible, but it would add 40 minutes to most trips when you consider my bike speed traveling with child or taking buses in traffic combined with a walk to the car share spaces.

And for my brother living in Woodland Hills?  Car share isn’t an option at all.

The Department noted that ZipCar now has 37 cars parked on L.A.’s streets, in free dedicated on-street parking spaces.  Zip Car has even expanded its operations into the city itself after years of having cars available only in the areas around USC and UCLA.    Fourteen Zip Cars were sprinkled around the Hollywood area.  These are good signs that car share is a viable option for Angelenos other than college students, Zip Car’s traditional, local, market.

Despite the limited availability of Zip Cars, membership is booming.  Well, as booming as can be expected for a program with under 40 cars.  Over the past year, membership grew from 363 local members to 863.  One of the benefits of car sharing is to encourage reduced car ownership, and that is holding true in Los Angeles.  56.1% of all users reported that they had deferred plans to buy a new car or were not going to buy one at all as a result of car share membership.

However, the biggest question seems to be how to proceed to grow the program.  LADOT was pretty candid that the city’s goal of maximizing parking revenue is at odds with a program of providing more free and dedicated spaces to Zip Car.  LADOT and the City Council have recommended a program to bring more car share to Metro transit hubs, which is in sync with LAX Car Share’s business model.

What is clear is that a spread out program could benefit more Angelenos.  71% of Zip Car’s  members live or work within three blocks of a dedicated space. If you planned on partaking in the Zip Car program and felt compelled to release your vehicle, you can donate car here from up to 400 charities to choose from.

  • I don’t understand why ZipCar doesn’t rent spaces from private owners? That’s what they do in every other city. I’ve used ZipCars that were stored in pay lots in DC, and even used one once that was stored in a private garage in a rowhome in Philly!  Why are they not being as creative in LA?

  • Ciacci

    I’ve used LAX car share 2 timers already, I live right at Wilshire and western so there’s no need for a car in Los angeles, i usually commute to work via metro, cycle or 70mpg scooter. I tired this service to see if it would beneficial to me and so far it’s paid off. We used it to go to the outlet malls in the Citadel, it took 50 mins to get there where as the bus would have been 60 so driving a car is no time saver unless it’s 2am and the streets are empty. 

    I was going to try zip car also but their start up fees are very high and the closest car is all the way at hollywood and vine, along the purple line i have one at Normandy, old bullocks dept. store and two in Pershing square underground, all accessible within 3-10 minutes.

    Top Marks LAX CarShare!

  • JK

    “However, the biggest question seems to be how to proceed to grow the
    program.  LADOT was pretty candid that the city’s goal of maximizing
    parking revenue is at odds with a program of providing more free and
    dedicated spaces to Zip Car.  LADOT and the City Council have
    recommended a program to bring more car share to Metro transit hubs,
    which is in sync with LAX Car Share’s business model.”

    So the City is going to destroy a locally owned car sharing business (LAX carshare) in favor of a company that already destroyed carsharing once in LA by buying up FlexCar?

    When I joined LAX carshare, they had locations in Santa Monica, WeHo, and Hollywood, now they are only in DTLA and Ktown, and now the city is supporting ZipCar in Hollywood.  I wish the city would support a local company. 

  • Cesar

    Chris you mention a great opportunity. If there are programs like Park
    Share, it makes sense for private landlords to rent extra spaces they do
    not use. Imagine those strip malls with their vast sea of parking
    spaces instead having some a few Zipcars scattered around.

  • I had a Flexcar membership when it first opened and they had cars scattered throughout the city. Unfortunately, when Zipcar bought them out, they consolidated all the cars at UCLA and USC, which I guess made sense from a business point of view but made the service worthless to me. I manage to get around via Metro or my bicycle but there are times when I really wish I had convenient access to a shared vehicle.

  • Mitch Bart

    Also in the Bay Area the CarShare companies have cars in the public transit station lots esp. BART lots.  Can Metro step up here, they could pilot with ZipCar at North Hollywood Red Line station.  Lots of boardings there.

  • It’s ridiculous how limited carshare options are in LA. Absolutely unacceptable. Local operators (ie, Zipcar, LAX Carshare, and any other future operators) need to dramatically expand locally.

  • Ray’s far more forgiving of Zipcar than I am for how badly and immediately it dissed Flexcar members. The company’s aptly named because zip is exactly what we got. Fug ’em.

  • Zipcar ripped the cars out of Santa Monica, and while fewer cars in SM sounds awesome this is one case where I’d prefer to see more. In the meantime I’ve discovered that during rush hour a bicycle can get around about as fast, and cheaper.

    Of course, the “borrow my girlfriend’s car” plan works pretty well too :-)

  • Juan

    New transit oriented developments would GIVE spaces to car share if it meant a 4-for-1 reduction in required parking.

  • Jordan

    ZipCar rocks.  i joined earlier this year because I live at Vermont / Santa Monica and they have cars at Hollywood /Western, Hollywood /Vine and Hollywood/Highland subway stations.  And then I believe also some others scattered about Hollywood.  It used to be easy to get a car.  If I thought about the night before, it was no big deal.  I’ve definitely noticed it’s getting more competitive, so the more ZipCars the better!  I used to live in venice and moved in part because i knew i could get access to rail and zipcar in this part of town.  The Metro/ZipCar/Bike combo is how I get around and how I answer all questions about how is it possible to LIVE in LA without owning a car.

  • John Ciacci, Esq.

    i wish lax car-share could have different vehicles to drive but i understand it is more feasible to have one fleet, and the nissan versa is not bad and easy on fuel. 150 miles barely put a notch in the gauge. i plan on reserving another car this weekend.

  • Melissa

    Zipcar has done a fabulous job of increasing awareness of car sharing, nationwide, which in turns inspires local providers to start, like LAXCarShare.

    Car sharing in LA has a bright future, and with this recent report, shows that the City of LA believes this as well.

    LAXCarShare was founded by a former Flexcar employee who believes that LA deserved it’s own program, and I personally thank each and every supporter and member for their enthusiasm and membership.

  • Melissa

    We appreciate your feedback John, have a great weekend!


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