Why Do Some Cities Get Car Shares and Others Not? The Answer...

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(Photo (cc) by Flickr user davereid2)

Miami Beach has claimed the crown of first Florida city to launch a car sharing program. Hertz On Demand will begin operations there on January 24th. Four universities do already have campus-based car share in Florida. But none are city wide, and Florida is a big state. This raises the question, why has no other city in Florida gotten car share? Even Idaho already has several car share programs. So how do ZipCar, Hertz On Demand, Car2Go or any of the other car sharing startups pick between cities when plotting their exponential expansion?

According to the companies, mass transit is a big factor.

Paula Rivera of Hertz On Demand tells TN, "when entering new markets, Hertz on Demand likes to look at urban areas that have a well defined mass transit infrastructure." She also said that a car sharing company could go into any city, but in an ideal world they want to work in conjunction with the local government, and that can mean the difference when choosing one city over another.

For instance Hertz on Demand was keen to set up in Hoboken, New Jersey because of enthusiasm from the local government which made parking spaces available and facilitated increased visibility. But the company also launched across the river in New York City despite heavy competition. Zipcar already had a government partnership in New York, and their largest fleet of cars for a metro area. Add to that other car share companies targeting specific niches like the smaller Mint Cars on Demand, which courts the business community well. But Hertz ventured into NYC anyway because other conditions are ideal for car share: extensive mass transit, large numbers of non-car owners, and a high hassle factor and costs to car ownership.

In Miami Beach, car sharing will " integrate with other alternative modes of transportation such as transit and bicycle-sharing programs facilitating mobility throughout the city," according to the official announcement (PDF). Hertz On Demand won the right to operate out of municipal garages in a competitive bidding contract and will lease parking spaces at above market rates for private monthly users.

The company said they chose Miami Beach to make their first foray in Florida because of the city's enthusiasm for partnership.

Daimler's Car2Go similarly chose Austin because of a municipal plan to encourage government workers to switch from company cars to the shared electric fleet. It has since begun expanding the model elsewhere.

Boston and San Francisco each have several start-up car share companies testing new business models, in particular peer-to-peer options. Both of those cities are tech hubs and the founders of these companies live there.

Zipcar told Transportation Nation: "Zipcar typically targets large, densely populated markets with access to strong public transportation; and areas where it is hard to find parking and has high costs of car ownership." So, basically, where it's a pain to own a car with lots of people who already go without one. Universities are a major target for growth for the industry leader; Zipcar runs more than 250 campus programs, 36 of them added since Fall 2011 including several in Florida. The poetic spokeswoman added, "It’s also important to note that Zipcar pods grow in clusters, and they are spaced out like strings of pearls." There's never one lone Zipcar, they're always at least in pairs, and then grow from that.