Going Car-Free? It’s On Us, Says Hoboken

Hoboken is now offering incentives for residents to give up their cars. Image: City of Hoboken.

Hoboken is now offering incentives for residents to give up their cars. Image: City of Hoboken.

When it comes to getting people to give up their cars, Hoboken is taking the direct approach. If you give up your parking permit, and with it your car, Hoboken will give you rewards worth more than $500.

Giving up your parking permit is equivalent to giving up your car in Hoboken, where there simply isn’t any spare room to park. “It’s exactly the same,” said Hoboken Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs. “You’ve got to give up your car.” That makes the “Surrender Your Permit” program an unambiguous attempt to reduce car-ownership in Hoboken.

The rewards package is a grab bag of goodies for car-free mobility (or at least, personal car-free), including a membership and driving credits for the city’s Corner Cars car-sharing program, a free pass for the Hoboken shuttle bus and bike gear like a helmet and lights. And Hoboken is putting its money where its mouth is: Most of the freebies were donated to the city, but the lost revenue from the shuttle pass comes out of the city’s budget.

Not only is “Surrender Your Permit” an example of a full-throated effort to build a more walkable, transit-oriented community, it provides New York City with a lesson in how car-sharing can be an important livable streets tool if it’s tied in with other policies aimed at reducing car-ownership.

“The Corner Cars program was critical for allowing us to move forward with this program,” explained Sacs. In Hoboken, a full 60 percent of residents own a car even though they don’t use it to commute. Those residents weren’t going to give up their cars unless they could have access to a vehicle when they wanted one.

Corner Cars, when combined with “Surrender Your Permit,” is directly targeted at getting car-owning households to give up their vehicles. New York City’s new car-sharing policy, in contrast, isn’t connected to any other policy aimed specifically at reducing car-ownership, like reduced parking minimums, and so may ultimately increase total driving.

Next up for Hoboken, according to Sacs, are further improvements to the city’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure and an expansion of the shuttle system.