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Car Sharing

SFMTA to Designate Hundreds of Curbside Parking Spots for Car-Sharing

Hundreds of on-street parking spaces across the city will be reserved for car-share vehicles starting in September as the SF Municipal Transportation Agency looks to provide more convenient alternatives to owning a car.

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Following a nearly two-year pilot designating 12 curbside spaces for the non-profit City CarShare, the SFMTA is planning a major expansion [PDF] in the next two years. In the first year, up to 150 spaces would be set aside for each car-share organization. An additional 150 would be available to each organization in the second year.

Until now, car-share organizations have generally only been able to procure reserved spaces in off-street parking lots and garages at sites like gas stations, many of which are giving way to redevelopment. Citing studies that found each car-share vehicle typically leads to 10 to 15 private cars being sold, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said that opening up a fraction of the city's 281,000 on-street spots for car-share will make it easier for car-share organizations to place vehicles closer to a broader range of residents.

"It opens up a lot more of the city to car-sharing," said Reiskin. "Generally, on-street parking will always be here."

The parking spaces will be available for traditional car-share services like Zipcar and City CarShare, as well as peer-to-peer services like RelayRides, Getaround, and Wheelz. However, one-way car-share services like Car2Go, which operates in other American cities and allows drivers to leave the car in any legal parking space (they're tracked by GPS), won't be eligible. Reiskin said the SFMTA has yet to see sufficient evidence that such services reduce car ownership and driving, and that accommodating them would require issuing a new special permit that exempts Car2Go's vehicles from parking restrictions.

"We have some concerns that it could actually work in the other direction -- that one-way [car-sharing] could actually encourage more driving," said Reiskin. "We're eager to get more information."

Reiskin said the agency will be collecting extensive usage data from car-share providers who participate in the on-street program. Organizations would be required to provide a certain proportion of their cars in outer neighborhoods, and cars would have to be rentable at least 75 percent of the time to ensure that peer-to-peer vehicles aren't being abused as private parking spaces by car owners. The SFMTA would also require organizations to do a certain amount of outreach to attract new users.

City CarShare CEO Rick Hutchinson said that in outer neighborhoods like Bayview, attracting new car-share members can take years. "It is a less dense area, there is more car ownership in the Bayview than anywhere else in the city, and parking is not an issue -- these are all things that create lower demand" for car-share, he said. "You need a long-term outlook."

SFMTA board member Cheryl Brinkman said she only wants to see expansion of the on-street car-share program "move faster."

As Reiskin noted, car-share can reduce transportation costs for residents, "because you're not paying for an asset that sits empty 22 or 23 hours out of the day."

Read more on the on-street car-share expansion at the SF Examiner and SFBay.

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