City considers expansion of car share services

City considers expansion of car share services

Scott Weitze
car2go

Photo from the car2go website.

Alamedans who don’t own cars will soon have another option for driving around and off the Island, and parking will be included.

Alameda’s Transportation Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve a point-to-point car sharing policy that allows car share company car2go to begin offering service on the Island. Council approval will expand car share options in Alameda, define the rules for additional car share companies who want to do business here, and provide an opportunity for one-way car share trips.

The company is working to establish itself in the East Bay, the city’s transportation coordinator, Gail Payne, told the commission on March 25.

“Oakland is kind of far along in this process, so we envision a program that will include the whole East Bay,” car2go’s Walter Rosenkranz told the commission. “You could put a car in Alameda, hopefully, and drive it to Berkeley. So it’s that point-to-point system.”

Car sharing companies facilitate the shared use of company vehicles by multiple members of the community on an on-demand basis. In 2010, City CarShare began operating out of three “home” parking spaces near the Park Street and Webster Street business districts, and Payne said the company’s success sparked interest in adding car2go to the mix.

City CarShare members can use online or mobile phone app access to rent specific blocks of time for available vehicles, which are then returned to their original parking spots. City CarShare’s “dedicated space” model of car sharing is useful for users who need to know exactly where a car can be picked up and dropped off, but it isn’t an option for one-way trips.

By contrast, the Austin-based car2go operates a point-to-point car sharing service that allows users to pick up the company’s cars at one location and drop them off somewhere else, allowing one-way travel. For example, a car2go member who missed the last bus home could hop into one of the company’s cars and driving home, parking the car on the street near their house for someone else to pick up.

With the car2go app, users are able to use GPS to find nearby parked cars that are available, book them for the time they need, and terminate the trip at a location of their own choice, to be used by the next interested car2go member.

Pricing for car2go use in the East Bay is not yet available, but the rates in Austin before taxes include a one-time $35 signup fee, a driving rate of 41 cents per minute up to a maximum of $14.99 and hour and $84.99 for a full day of driving. Longer trips accumulate a surcharge of 45 cents a mile after 150 miles. The car2go contract also covers all insurance costs for members while they are driving one of the company’s vehicles.

The company expects to provide 250 vehicles for its East Bay operation, with 35 of them operating primarily in Alameda, according to a city staff report.

The new rules being considered would provide a new “Free-Floating Parking Permit” for car2go vehicles in Alameda that will exempt drivers from having to feed city parking meters. To ensure that the program does not cost the city any revenue from parking meters, car2go will pay $14,323 to cover meter parking for its 35 Alameda vehicles in its first year here, covering the $409 per car parking meter cost estimated by the city.

The cost for metered parking in year two will be based on GPS monitoring of actual time the cars spends at parking meters during the first year of car2go’s service here. The company will be responsible for monitoring excess metered parking space usage beyond the city’s estimate.

Car2go will also be required to remove cars that have terminated their trips in parking spaces defined as off-limits to car2go vehicles (this includes yellow zones, disabled parking spaces, and spaces that will have street sweeping within the next 24 hours). Rosenkranz told the commission the company would move cars that sit in a space for too long to more on-demand locations.

In its report to the commission, city staffers said car share programs offer a number of benefits for the city. While parking spaces are expected to be somewhat less available with the addition of 35 car2go vehicles to the Island initially, over time fewer residents will need to rely on purchasing their own vehicles and can rely on car sharing services, freeing up additional spaces. Fewer purchased cars will also mean less carbon added to the atmosphere – in line with Alameda’s environmental goals – and the new business will generate additional license and taxes.

The commission is recommending that the program be reviewed after it’s been operating for a year, primarily to assess whether it poses any parking issues.

More details on the car2go program are available on its website.