City Employees to Share Zipcars with Weekend Renters

Many New Yorkers are familiar with car sharing services like Zipcar, and now city employees will be too. The city is testing out car sharing for part of it’s fleet and hoping the savings will follow. 

The Department of Transportation will be the first to replace 50 of its dedicated cars with 25 hybrid Zipcars. During the day, 300 employees will share the cars and the public will have access to them at night and on weekends.

This is the latest of several efforts to reduce the size and cost of the city’s 26,000 vehicle fleet, which includes light cars, vans, police cars and garbage trucks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that this is the beginning of a new way for departments to think about the cars they use.

“I know why every agency wants to be in total control of their own destiny, but that's just a luxury that has passed us by,” Bloomberg said. “The public is tired of the rate of taxation and we continue to see our costs go up in a world where we really can't afford it.”

The mayor said there are 11 agencies with vehicles -- 1,500 employees maintain them and 126 shops fix them. He has already cut the city's 26,000 vehicle fleet by selling 750 of them last year. The new car-sharing plan will cost almost $200,000 per year and should save the city around a half a million dollars over 3 years.

The mostly hybrid fleet is expected to reduce tailpipe emissions and traffic congestion. And there's something in it for the rest of the driving public.

“The cars are stored in private garages and that frees up street parking spaces in lower Manhattan, an area where parking spaces are in high demand,” Bloomberg said.

The Department of Transportation depends on cars to conduct inspections of construction projects, signage and roads. “We thought creatively about how to take these vehicles that we rely on every day yet leave unused most nights and weekends,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said. She saw an opportunity to “turn that excess capacity into an asset.”

Bloomberg said the city will earn revenue from renting out the cars on nights and weekends through Zipcar, a company that lend out cars by the hour with fees that include gas and insurance.

Municipal car sharing already exists in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.