This afternoon, Council Member Mark Levine will introduce a bill [PDF 1, 2] requiring DOT to give car-share companies designated on-street parking spaces, potentially for a price. Guaranteed parking would boost car sharing, Levine says, and reduce car ownership. Trouble is, there’s not much data to say whether or not car-share in New York is reducing vehicle ownership or just encouraging more driving.
Levine introduced the bill days after Car2Go announced an expansion into western Queens. The company, owned by auto giant Daimler, offers a fleet of 450 Smart cars in a 36 square-mile zone covering the western half of Brooklyn, from Greenpoint to Coney Island. Starting August 29, the company is adding another 100 vehicles and eight square miles in Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside, and Sunnyside. Customers of the point-to-point service can start and end trips in any free curbside parking space.
“The focus area of Car2Go in New York currently is in Brooklyn-Queens connections, where there’s little to no subway links,” Levine said. “I strongly believe this is ultimately a substitute for car ownership. In the outer boroughs, the further you get from the Central Business District, the more car ownership increases because the transit links are weaker.”
There isn’t enough research to back or refute Levine’s intuition. That’s for two reasons. First, most scholarship has focused on round-trip services like Zipcar, whose customers start and finish their trips in the same parking spot. Second, there isn’t much data on cities with New York’s level of density, transit service, and low car ownership rates.
Susan Shaheen, a car-share expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said car-share has a varied impact, depending on each customer’s circumstances. “Many individuals will drive marginally more,” she said in an email. “Other individuals will drive substantially less, as they alter their relationship with the private auto to one of necessity rather than convenience.”