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Posts from the "Car-Sharing" Category

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Car2Go Launches in Brooklyn — Users Will Have to Pay at Parking Meters

Point-to-point car-share service Car2Go will launch next month across the western third of Brooklyn. One of the questions hanging over the launch was whether the company would pay the city to let its customers park for free at metered spaces. Now we have an answer: DOT will not change its parking rules to accommodate Car2Go, whose customers will have to pay to use metered spaces. In areas with a high concentration of meters, the company will secure private off-street parking for its users.

Car2Go will operate on NYC's residential streets, which offer free parking. The city hasn't made a deal with the company for metered spaces. Photo: Car2Go

Car2Go will operate on NYC’s residential streets, which offer free parking. The city hasn’t made a deal with the company for metered spaces. Photo: Car2Go

On October 25, Car2Go will launch operations with 400 vehicles across a 36-square-mile zone covering much of northwest Brooklyn, as well as areas west of Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Customers can end their trips at any legal parking space anywhere within the zone, with a few exceptions.

Parking lanes that become moving lanes during rush hour are a no-no. On streets that are swept four days a week, customers can’t park if the sweeping is less than 12 hours away. If the street is swept twice a week, customers can leave a vehicle no more than 24 hours before sweeping.

In many of the cities where it operates, Car2Go pays a fee to local governments for access to residential permit zones. Since New York gives away most of its curbside space for free, that’s not an issue for Car2Go. It’s setting up shop without coming to an agreement with DOT.

The company also usually pays local governments to let customers use metered parking for free, either to run errands or to end their journey in a metered spot.

Offering a pass on meters negates the purpose of parking prices — to ensure turnover. If a Car2Go user closes out a trip at a meter, there’s no guarantee that another customer will hop in the vehicle a short time later.

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Point-to-Point Car-Share Service Car2Go Getting Ready to Launch in Brooklyn

Car2Go, a subsidiary of automotive giant Daimler AG, is hiring staff and preparing to launch in Brooklyn after more than a year of negotiations with the city, bringing point-to-point car-share to NYC for the first time. Car2Go will also be the first car-share company in the city to store its vehicles on the street, though the specifics of the arrangement with the city, such as the price the company will pay for curb access, have yet to be made public.

Car2Go, which sells point-to-point car-share by the minute, appears to be gearing up for a Brooklyn launch. Photo: Elliott Brown/Flick

Car2Go appears almost ready for a Brooklyn launch after more than a year of negotiations with DOT. Photo: ElliottBrown/Flickr

What differentiates Car2Go from other car-share services in New York is that users can make one-way trips. (Zipcar, a competitor, is getting into the one-way car-share game in other cities, but does not currently offer the service here.) The added flexibility could entice more car-owning New Yorkers to give up their private vehicles, though it’s tough to say whether this effect will outweigh the additional driving trips made by households without cars, which are the majority in NYC.

The other intriguing aspect of Car2Go is that its fleet of Smart Cars will be stored on the street. To close out a one-way trip, members must park on the street anywhere within the Car2Go service area. These zones are usually quite large: The company says it’s looking to cover Brooklyn before expanding to other boroughs. (It’s not clear whether the service will ever come to Manhattan, where transit coverage is superb, cabs are plentiful, and competition for curb space is most intense.)

Since the vehicles are located curbside, the company has to work out a host of issues with the city. ”New York is not unique,” said Car2Go business development manager Josh Moskowitz. ”There’s street sweeping, there are meters, there are rush hour restrictions.” Car2Go operates in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 12 European cities. In each, the company reached an agreement with the local government and prohibits users from parking 24 hours before street sweeping or in an area with rush hour restrictions.

One of the downsides to these agreements is that they mask the cost of metered spaces from customers, who are allowed to park in those spaces as if they are free because Car2Go compensates cities for foregone meter revenue. A Car2Go customer can end a one-way trip by parking in a metered spot without paying extra. While another customer might soon drive that car away, the practice still raises questions about how Car2Go vehicles will affect curb occupancy and traffic congestion in commercial areas.

Car2Go has been in on-again, off-again negotiations with DOT for more than a year. Although there’s no official word of a deal, the company has started the launch process by hiring a marketing manager and a fleet supervisor in Brooklyn.

So when will Car2Go launch? “We don’t have any rough timelines right now,” Moskowitz said. “We’re moving closer.”

Update: “DOT has had preliminary conversations with Car2Go regarding their service,” said a DOT spokesperson. “There have been no formal negotiations and no agreement has been reached between Car2Go and DOT for a Car2Go launch within New York City.”

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The Convergence Between New Technologies and the Decline in Driving

According to a spate of recent studies, Millennials — a bigger generation than the Baby Boomers — are driving less than their parents did. But the underlying reasons are a matter of some dispute. Will younger Americans start happily motoring again once the economy is really humming, or is a lasting generational shift underway?

According to user surveys, Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare has reduced driving by its members 4.4 million miles since the program began. Image: Creative Commons

The U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group teamed up last year to make the case that the “driving boom” is truly over, and today they’re out with a report that examines how new technologies are making it easier for young Americans to drive less. ”A New Way to Go” focuses on how communications technology has enabled transportation advances like ride-sharing apps and real-time transit arrival data that make it easier for people to drive less and avoid car ownership.

“For Baby Boomers, driving one’s car represented freedom and spontaneity,” said Phineas Baxandall at U.S. PIRG. “Today — especially for younger people — owning a car is likely to represent big expenses and parking hassles. Meanwhile, technology and vehicle-sharing are making it easier not to own a car or for households to drive less. Public transit systems, especially with on-board wi-fi and real-time apps, can be the backbone of this new mobility.”

PIRG and the Frontier Group argue that smartphones and mobile communications have helped increase the relative competitiveness of transit compared to driving. Not only do these technologies make it possible to work and socialize while riding transit, they also make transit more convenient. Real time arrival data, where available, takes the guesswork out of waiting for the bus or the train: The introduction of real time bus location information in Chicago was shown to increase weekday ridership between 2006 and 2009, PIRG reports.

Meanwhile, with the growth of services bike-share, car-share, and even phone-assisted taxi hailing apps like Uber increasing point-to-point travel options, it’s easier for people to forego car ownership. As of 2012, more than 800,000 Americans were members of a car-share service.

The report notes that many of these new services and technologies “are still in their infancy” — the full effects aren’t apparent yet.

U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group note several ways that policy makers can help unlock the potential of new transportation and communications technologies: opening transit data to third-party developers, adding wi-fi and cellular service on all transit vehicles, updating regulations to enable vehicle sharing, and, of course, making the core investments to create convenient, reliable transit systems.

“We’re not in a position to rest on our laurels,” said Peter Varda, chair of the American Public Transportation Association and CEO of the Interurban Transit Partnership, AKA “The Rapid” in Grand Rapids, on a conference call with reporters today. “Millennials generally want a broader range of transportation options. We must be ready for them.”

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As Car2Go Eyes NYC, Will DOT Put a Price on Curbside Parking?

Many New Yorkers are familiar with car-sharing services — like Zipcar, Hertz Connect, Enterprise CarShare, and Carpingo — that charge by the hour or day, with a reserved space where customers must start and finish a round-trip rental. Daimler-owned Car2Go operates differently: it charges by the minute or hour, and is focused on one-way rentals, allowing users to return a car to any on-street space within the company’s service area. The company, already operating in ten North American markets, is eyeing New York.

A Car2Go vehicle in the UK advertises free parking for customers -- but the company actually pays a significant amount to cities in order to use curb space. Photo: Elliott Brown on Flickr

“In the last few months, Car2Go has met with several New York City community groups, as well as NYC DOT,” Car2Go East Coast business development manager Josh Moskowitz said in an e-mail. Those meetings included a presentation to the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 7, which covers Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, indicating that the company is looking beyond Manhattan.

While the potential entry of point-to-point car-sharing to New York has implications for transportation behavior (Will it induce more car trips? Will it encourage households to go car-free?), it also raises another important question: How much is a parking spot worth?

When it launched a 200-car fleet in Washington, DC, last year, Car2Go paid the local government $578,000 annually, or $2,890 per car. The payment granted its users unlimited access to all residential permit zones and metered spaces at no direct cost, though the cars are still subject to rush-hour and street-sweeping restrictions. (The District government’s car-share manager at the time was Josh Moskowitz, before Car2Go hired him.)

When the company decided to expand its fleet by 100 vehicles, it paid the DC government an additional $215,300 per year, or $2,153 per car. In Portland, Car2Go pays the city $1,009 per vehicle per year for curbside access.

It’s not just general access to the curb that’s being sold for thousands of dollars each year. Car-share services are also paying cities for specific parking spots. In 2010, the DC government auctioned off 86 curbside parking spaces to car-share companies, fetching an average of $3,485 for each space, according to TBD.com.

Instead of an auction, San Francisco has opted to give car-share services access to hundreds of spaces in exchange for set fees. High-demand areas would command higher prices; as a result, the city expects to earn anywhere from $600 to $2,700 for each space annually. In Los Angeles, the city has entered into an agreement with Hertz in which the company pays at least $1,500 per space each year [PDF].

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Avis Acquires Zipcar: What Are the Implications?

In a sign of the increasing market for car-sharing, Avis car rental is expected to purchase Zipcar today for a tidy $500 million. With the acquisition, the car rental giant will begin offering short-term car rentals, as have competitors Global and Enterprise.

Avis today purchased Zipcar. Good news, or bad? Photo: Dallas Morning News

Car-sharing has the potential to help households make more trips via transit, biking, or walking, instead of using the car as the default choice for every trip. But is the Zipcar acquisition good or bad news for the shift to cleaner, more efficient modes? The short answer is that, at this point, it’s anyone’s guess and could still play out either way.

Since its founding in 2000, Zipcar has gained 760,000 members, the New York Times reports. It operates in 20 metro areas in North America and Europe, and on many college campuses.

Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog predicts that Avis will basically wreck Zipcar by making it operate more like the parent company and less like the upstart that has appealed to car-lite customers who want to avoid the expense and hassles of car ownership. He also raises anti-trust concerns, pointing to the increasing concentration of the car-rental business in the hands of a few large firms.

If Avis uses Zipcar to expand the availability of short-term rentals in areas where car-sharing can replace car-owning, however, this could turn out to be good news. (Places like the west side of Cleveland could certainly use a convenient car-sharing service, hint, hint).

Matt Yglesias over at Slate writes that the merger will put the Zipcar business on sounder footing (the company turned its first profit last year), and predicts that Avis’s resources will immediately help smooth out some wrinkles in Zipcar service:

Zipcar’s big outstanding problem is that demand for Zipcars is highly spiky. People who want to use a car to commute to work are going to want to own their own vehicle. And people generally need to work during weekdays. Which means that demand for spot rentals is very highly concentrated on the weekends, which makes it hard for Zipcar to manage inventory efficiently. Avis says that combining its fleet with Zipcar’s will make it much easier to meet those demand peaks, as individual vehicles can switch from hourly rental to traditional rental on a day-by-day basis.

Yglesias also raises the question of whether Avis will be as active as Zipcar in lobbying for progressive policy changes like reducing parking minimums. The larger company may bring more firepower to those debates, he writes, or it may lack the same intensity of interest as Zipcar.

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Moving Beyond the Automobile: Car-Sharing

In the third episode of our Moving Beyond the Automobile series, Streetfilms takes a look at a more efficient way to use cars. Unlike owning a car, which involves a large upfront purchase and low costs per trip, car-sharing allows people to evaluate the full cost of each car trip. When car-share members choose whether to drive, take transit, walk, or bike, the incentives guide them toward the most appropriate mode for that specific trip. Driving half a mile to pick up some milk starts to make a lot less sense.

Zipcar, a leading car-share company, reports that members save $600 a month compared to the costs of owning an automobile. They also walk and bike 10 to 15 percent more than they did before joining Zipcar.

So while car-sharing isn’t exactly “beyond the automobile,” it is a great way to help cut traffic, reduce the space taken up by private cars, and make city streets more efficient.

This series is made possible by funding from the Fund for The Environment & Urban Life.

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50 DOT Fleet Vehicles Replaced By 25 Zipcars

Mayor Bloomberg announces the city's car-sharing program, along with Zipcar president Mark Norman, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Mayor Bloomberg announces the city's car-sharing program, along with Zipcar president Mark Norman, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo: Noah Kazis

The Department of Transportation will soon be using Zipcars instead of city-owned vehicles, Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced at a press conference yesterday. The initiative is intended to reduce unnecessary driving by DOT employees and could yield significant savings if expanded to the city’s entire passenger vehicle fleet. Symbolically, the city is also sending a message that owning a car might not be a wise financial decision.

Three hundred DOT employees will share 25 Zipcars during the workweek, which they’ll reserve online. Those 25 vehicles will replace 50 that had been owned by the department. At night and on the weekends, regular Zipcar members will have access to the vehicles, which will be stored in private garages in Lower Manhattan.

The car-sharing idea has been in the works for a while now. DOT put it out for competitive bidding a year ago and the plan made it into Goldsmith’s cost-cutting program in July. Now it’s ready to go.

At yesterday’s announcement, a lot of attention went to the savings and efficiency gains that car-sharing could bring. The city’s fleet is currently “a patchwork of standard operating procedures and tracking mechanisms, some of which are still paper-based,” said Bloomberg. This DOT pilot, he said, would save the City $500,000 over four years, and could be scaled up to the entire passenger vehicle portion of the city’s 26,000 vehicles.

Cities like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia have reaped big savings by contracting with car-sharing companies for their fleets.

Bloomberg also promised that switching to car-sharing will “reduce the congestion on our streets and the pollution in our air.” That may be the case with consumer car-sharing, which leads people to weigh the price of each car trip against other options, but it’s not quite clear whether switching to Zipcar will help DOT reduce the amount employees drive, since the agency is paying a fixed amount already.

Bloomberg said the main effect would be to discourage employees from commuting with agency vehicles — an improper use of city cars. Restrictions on when city workers can use the shared cars will keep most of them off the streets during peak commute hours. The mayor also hypothesized that having to walk to a public garage might be a disincentive to take unnecessary trips.

We’ll know the effect soon enough. Sadik-Khan said that GPS would be installed in the city’s Zipcars and used to measure whether the program is actually reducing driving. Bloomberg suggested that DOT also use the GPS data to find driving trips that could be done on transit. “If it turns out the subway is better, or the new M15 bus,” he argued, “maybe that’s the way to go.”

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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.

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City Council Embraces Car-Sharing, But Parking Requirements Remain

If New York follows the national model, car-sharing could take huge numbers of vehicles out of the lots and off the street. Image: DCP.

If New York follows patterns in other American cities, car-sharing could take huge numbers of vehicles out of parking lots and off the streets. Image: DCP

Attempts to expand car-sharing in New York City got a big boost yesterday when the City Council passed a measure intended to help companies store shared cars. The near-unanimous vote opens the door for businesses that have been shown to reduce car-ownership and driving in other cities. Neither the City Council nor the City Planning Commission, however, took the opportunity to maximize the impact of car-sharing by linking it to reduced parking minimums.

Up until now, the city’s zoning law was silent on car-sharing, leading to a great deal of uncertainty for companies looking to place their shared vehicles in off-street lots. That makes it slower and more expensive for car-sharing companies to establish themselves or expand.

Yesterday’s zoning change allows shared cars to be stored in both publicly-accessible parking lots (including garages operated by private companies) and in parking lots connected to residential, commercial, manufacturing, or “community use” buildings like schools and libraries — which are called “accessory lots” in planning parlance. More spaces will be permitted for car-sharing in public lots than in accessory lots, and car-sharing will be allowed to fill up more of accessory lots in higher-density parts of town.

Car-sharing can reduce traffic and the space devoted to cars in two main ways. It makes it easier for people to go car-free by giving them the option of a car when they really need one. And it also switches up the incentives to drive. Car owners have already paid most of the cost of their car, so each additional trip is a bargain. Car-sharing members, in contrast, have high costs each time they drive, pushing them away from frequent or long trips.

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City Seeks to Save By Reducing 26,000-Vehicle Municipal Fleet

dot_truck.jpgMany NYCDOT vehicles could be operated by a car-sharing company, under a new plan to make the city fleet more efficient. Photo: Transportation Alternatives
With the city's budget battered by the economic crisis, the Bloomberg administration is looking for ways to reduce the cost of city government. One place they're turning: the city's fleet of 26,000 motor vehicles. The city announced last week that it expects to save $71 million by streamlining fleet management, including measures to cut fuel use and decrease the number of vehicles it owns. The city will also explore ways to use car-sharing to make the city's fleet more efficient.

The size of the municipal fleet makes it a tempting target for those seeking to increase the city's efficiency and environmental sustainability. Of those 26,000 vehicles, 60 percent are passenger vehicles, SUVs and vans. The vehicles in that portion of the fleet travel an average of 7,500 miles per year. Another 30 percent of the fleet are heavy-duty vehicles like fire or sanitation trucks. Those travel an average of 4,000 miles per year, but are also used extensively while stationary, according to mayoral spokesperson Jason Post. The remaining 10 percent of the fleet is made up of off-road vehicles, including forklifts and tractors. Managing the fleet currently requires more than 1,500 employees, spread across nine agencies. 

Much of the savings announced last week will come from back-end efficiency measures, like privatizing and centralizing some aspects of fleet management. But the city will also cut costs by reducing the number of cars it owns, making those cars cleaner, and possibly reducing the amount of driving overall.

To get a handle on the costs of driving, in both dollars and environmental impact, the city will begin tracking its total fuel use and vehicle emissions. Such a tracking system could quantify the benefit of continuing to shift toward an electric vehicle fleet, Post said. It could also, if taken seriously, illustrate the benefits of reducing the city's driving altogether.

Most intriguingly, the city is exploring ways in which car-sharing could save taxpayers money. Some vehicles at every agency are already part of a pool, said Post. But the shared portion of each pool could be expanded, he explained, and even run by a third-party operator, like Zipcar or Hertz.

Car-sharing could lead to a significant reduction in the number of vehicles owned by the city. In Washington D.C., using Zipcar allowed the city to replace 360 vehicles with 71 shared vehicles, according to the New York Times, while Philadelphia shed 140 vehicles from its fleet via car-sharing. As with regular consumer car-sharing, municipal car-sharing customers would pay per trip, increasing the cost of each mile driven compared to city-owned cars. That in turn could create an incentive for the city to do its business without relying so heavily on the car.