Thursday, February 21, 2013
(San Francisco -- KALW) San Francisco's Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance to allow residential developers to add more parking spots to their new apartment buildings–- if those spots are dedicated for car-share programs.
The city considers itself a national leader in car share, and in 2011 it began reserving on-street parking for area nonprofit City CarShare.
So it wasn't a surprise when the ordinance, which was proposed by Supervisor Scott Wiener, passed unanimously. What surprised some was the opposition to it.
In a letter, Sierra Club secretary Sue Vaughan said the plan "will add to overall congestion and negatively impact the flow of transit and air quality.”
The Sierra Club says building more parking spaces -- even for car share -- violates the city’s Transit First policy. That's a 1973 initiative that puts public transit investment as the city’s top transportation priority, and is designed to discourage private automobile traffic.
Apartment parking is hot commodity in San Francisco– under the current rules, developers can only build one space per unit. But for many San Franciscans, that’s not enough. A quick search on Craigslist shows people renting their coveted spots upwards of $300 a month.
Now, the city is considering reducing that amount: a recent development on Market and Castro was allowed just one half of a parking spot per unit. The idea behind the restriction is to get people out of cars and into other methods of transportation, like Muni or biking.
Before the new ordinance, car-share spots counted toward the development’s maximum. For example, the planned building on Market and Castro has 24 units, so that means 12 parking spaces. If the developer wanted to add a car-share spot, it would have to be included in that 12. Under the new ordinance, they could add between two to five spots designated for car-share only, in addition to the 12.
Instead of making new parking spots for car-share programs, The Sierra Club suggested converting existing street parking spots. But Supervisor Wiener’s office countered by offering studies that show each new car share vehicle replaces between eight and ten private cars. In fact, a UC Berkeley study found that after signing up with a car-sharing program, almost half of households with a car got rid of their vehicle.
The San Francisco Supervisors hope that developers will take advantage of these new car-share spots. So do the city’s car-share members, who are seeing their usual spots at gas stations and open-air lots disappear as they get converted into buildings and other uses.
This isn't the first time the Sierra Club has taken a counterintuitive position. Last summer, the group opposed a regional transportation referendum in the Atlanta area that would have generated $3 billion in transit funding. The Sierra Club said that proposal didn't go far enough. The referendum didn't get the majority it needed to pass.
Follow @IsabeltheAngell on Twitter.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Listen to an alternate version of this story from Marketplace:
New Yorkers are taking to car sharing. New York's two smaller car share companies report double and triple digit membership growth in the past year. Several companies have expanded into Harlem in recent months, and plan further offerings in New Jersey and the outer boroughs. Car sharing companies have traditionally focused on Manhattan below 96th Street and parts of Brooklyn closer to Manhattan.
Hertz's hourly rental offering, Hertz On Demand now has 30,000 members in the New York area, a three fold increase over last September, according to the company, which launched car sharing in December 2008.
Mint Cars-On-Demand, a local company targeting small businesses, reports growth has accelerated 50 percent over last year's pace. They have about 125 cars and 10,000 members with hourly rentals starting at $7 per hour.
New York is Zipcar's largest market with 2,100 cars in the area. The newly public company declined to share growth statistics by press time, though it has launched an extensive subway advertising campaign.
As the practice of renting out cars by the hour catches on in New York and nationwide, car makers are planning on new ways to capitalize on the trend. The reason, is younger drivers.
"They represent about 40 percent of car buyers and they drive a lot less than the generation that preceded them," says Carroll Lachnit of Edmunds.com. She says car makers need new ways to reach Millenials who are less likely to rush to the dealership on their 16th birthday, and after that, far less likely to become loyal to a brand for life. Lachnit says that first purchase comes later now, so car makers need to do more than just offer a test drive and a low interest loan. Car sharing can fill that void and be the first -- and second, third, fourth -- exposure to a vehicle for a young driver who is a future driver.
That's one explanation for why Ford offered up thousands of cars to ZipCar for university car share programs. And why GM is using its OnStar technology to facilitate peer-to-peer car sharing through RelayRides. As we reported last week, GM also gets a cut of the rental profits, but more than that, GM's Bob Tiderington explained to TN, car sharing is like hassle free test drive. In many ways, it's better than a test drive. Drivers get more time in a car, can test a car out at night, and try out a single car over and over in different conditions over time before it comes time to make a decision.
The premise is that car sharers will grow up to be car owners.
That's assuming that car sharing is convenient, but for now, it's still a tiny fraction of drivers.
Nationwide there are about two dozen car sharing companies with more than 500,000 members in total, according to Susan Shaheen of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at U.C. Berkeley. She says it's way too soon to know if the car companies' plan will work. But some initial research does indicate that there is some brand loyalty developed.
For more on car sharing as the new test drive, including what one skeptical car dealer has to say about it, listen to this story on Marketplace Money.
Additional reporting for this article by Casey Miner.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
America's largest automaker is embracing carsharing. GM has signed a deal with peer-to-peer car sharing company RelayRides to make it easier for drivers to rent out their cars by the hour to neighbors, the companies announced Wednesday.
"We could stand on the sidelines and watch or we could choose to participate and try to make it into a favorable business model, which in this particular case we have," GM's Bob Tiderington tells TN.
GM will adapt its OnStar anti-theft technology to facilitate car rentals, making it cheaper and simpler to sign up with RelayRides as a car-lender. In exchange, GM gets a percentage of every rental of an OnStar equipped car. OnStar enables remote locking and unlocking of a car. So, an owner who wants to rent out their car no longer has to install a separate device to let neighbors open the door and get the key, they will be able to use a mobile phone app instead.
When the plan launches in early 2012, all GM vehicles built after 2010 with OnStar service and current subscription will be "carsharing ready," says Tiderington, who is the head of new business development initiatives at GM. That's 1.7 million cars that could be turned into peer-to-peer rental cars right off the bat, in theory. "Our intent over the next four to five months is to also include [model years] going back to 2005," which boosts the figure to 6 million, Tiderington points out. Right now, RelayRides only operates in San Francisco and Boston, so nothing close to that will actually come on the rental market. According to Innovative Mobility Research, car sharing in North America has grown from 400,000 users in 2009 to 640,000 in July 2011. Consultants Frost & Sullivan predict car sharing users will reach 4.4 million by 2016. That's for company-owned fleets, RelayRides is one of the first and largest efforts to date of for private car owners to rent out their vehicles when they aren't in use.
There hasn't been a study yet on how demand and supply for peer-to-peer car sharing has functioned so far.
"We're still a small company, we're 18 months old," said Andrew Haddad, CEO of RelayRides. "I think [the OnStar partnership] will significantly spread car sharing to people who weren't considering it before, because it's easy. If its hard it won't spread." RelayRides pays about $500 in all to equip each participating car with the add-on device that lets a renter open the vehicle with a membership card. That's cumbersome for the owners, Haddad says. But OnStar cars will just need to turn the service on.
The other reason he's optimistic about partnering with a major carmaker is outreach to all those millions of GM owners. “We do plan to go out and reach out to these folks, both the current subscribers and people that are not active,'” GM's Tiderington says.
This partnership is notable, says Susan Shaheen, Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at University of California at Berkeley. "Mobility services represent a new approach that can complement the core business model of automakers,vehicle sales, as well as the introduction of new technologies to consumers--such as alternative fuel vehicles and safety, real-time traffic, and parking assist devices."
2011 has been a year substantial growth for car sharing partnerships. Ford teamed up with Zipcar--which issued an IPO in April--for a pilot program on university campuses. BMW paired with Sixt on a one-way car rental program. Daimler is planning to expand it's car share company Car2Go, which only uses Daimler's Smart cars. The Austin-based one-way car sharing company is expected to set up shop in San Diego next.
The spread of RelayRides and other P2P companies, such as Getaround and Wheelz, is still unclear," Shaheen says. "I have not seen data yet to validate "matches" of demand and supply and overall consumer response." She plans to study the spread.
GM is optimistic. RelayRides says it plans to expand, and GM sees that as a marketing opportunity. "I think of it as a low hassle test drive," Tiderington tells TN. The more people he can get behind the wheel of a GM car, the more chance they'll buy it, he says. “So if you have one vehicle and 50 people rent it, some of those people are going to end up buying a product."
“You do it in certain markets, like say San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, Washington, D.C., markets like that where we don’t tend to do incredibly well, and we look at it as, ‘what do we really have to loose?’ We’ve already lost in the sense we have low market share there, so we look at it as a really good idea from a marketing perspective to get our product out there.”
That's a shift from a few years ago when automakers were lukewarm to the idea of car sharing and considered it a threat to sales. If several people could all share one car, they would buy fewer new vehicles overall went the worry. But Tiderington agrees with car sharing advocates that an idle car is a wasted resource. He wants GM cars on the road, and out in front of other potential buyers as much as possible. Plus, he points out that if renters put on significant mileage to a car, it will "turn over" faster, and the owner will buy a new one sooner.
He also predicts that new buyers will factor in potential rental income. “Say you want to buy a Chevy Volt, to some people, it might be a little bit of a stretch for them. The upside to it is they buy it, they get it into this program, they rent it out, they make maybe $200, $300 a month it helps, in a sense, offset their cost.”
Dealers will be making exactly that case for new GM vehicles in San Francisco and Boston.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a hopeful pilot program Tuesday to reduce the amount of cars, traffic and pollution caused by municipal employees. Three-hundred City workers will carshare 25 vehicles, mostly housed in downtown Manhattan.
According to a press release, the program will start as a one-year pilot in partnership with the private company Zipcar, but the city is already projecting cost savings four years out at more than $500,000 in reduced fuel, maintenance, and vehicle purchase costs.
There is solid precedent for that kind of thinking. Washington has a succesful program, as does Philadelphia. In fact, when Philadelphia started their program in 2004, the City was able to sell off 329 vehicles. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg ordered City agencies last year to reduce non-emergency, light-duty vehicles by 10 percent, resulting in the sale of 750 vehicles already, 50 additional cars will be sold as part of the pilot program announced Tuesday.
The New York City program will also use a computer reservation system and restrict the amount of cars available during rush hours to prevent the shared vehicles from being used for, or clogging commutes. After hours, most of the 23 hybrid cars and 2 mid-sized vans, will be open for public reservation.
When Austin launched a similar program with 200 cars in May 2009, initial demand was triple expectations. That program also offered a feature that let city workers check out cars for personal use with a pay-by-the-minute rate to remove the incentive to bring your own car for personal transport and running errands. Oh, and Austin used a fleet Smart cars, easier parking that way, cute too.