More and more tiny Car2Go smart cars are seen around the city, and Zipcars can be found in more city parking garages. Given the spread of these services, the City Council is looking to give the industry some space with a new bill that would ask the Department Of Transportation to set up a program that would give dedicated parking spots to car sharing programs.
On Monday, the City Council will hear testimony on a bill sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine that if passed, would direct the Department of Transportation to set up a system in which dedicated parking spots would be set aside for car sharing companies, which they can they apply for.
The bill, which Levine told Gothamist was introduced over a year ago, would put the DOT tin charge of figuring out how to make number of parking spaces available to car sharing companies. The DOT would also be required to report on things like how many spots where applied for and granted, and the effects car sharing services had on private car ownership in the city. Monday's testimony will include input from representatives from Car2Go, Zipcar, ReachNow and the DOT.
Other cities, such as Seattle, Baltimore and Philadelphia have a similar relationship with car sharing companies in which they pay to get access to exclusive street parking. New York currently doesn't have a program like that, which Levin's bill seeks to fix And similar to those cities, companies who apply for the spots would have to pay for them.
"Absolutely, they would have to pay for parking spots," Levine told Gothamist. "The bill doesn't specify if they would get metered or unmetered spots, but either way it's real estate. It's only sensible that they would have to pay for space no matter where it is."
An article in the Wall Street Journal last year went over the problems that Car2Go has had with their New York City expansion, mostly involving the difficulty their users had parking the cars and the almost 5,000 parking tickets the company had racked up through August 2015.
"Short-term rental companies need permanent parking, it's part of the business model," Levine said. "What residents need," in order to make car sharing work for them, "is a nearby location in their neighborhood to pick up cars," according to Levine. Promoting car sharing this way could also lead to a reduction in the use of private cars. As an example, Levine said that car sharing could be attractive to a person who only uses their car once per week, so much so that if the system has dedicated parking spots, they might just get rid of their car altogether. "It might sound counter-intuitive, but this frees up parking," Levine said.
A July 2016 study by researchers at Innovative Mobility Research, which studied the effects of introducing Car2Go in five North American cities, backs up Levine's argument. The study, which looked at the effect Car2Go had on car ownership in Calgary, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington, DC concluded that between 2% and 5% of Car2Go members sold their cars and that between 7% and 10% of members decided not to buy a car.
However, as we've seen with Citi Bike, reductions in parking spaces can lead to extremely angry residents. Levine, who represents a slice of northern Manhattan, said that since Citi Bike was introduced to his neighborhood he sees residents using it and relying on it to get around. However, Levine said there are cases in which using a bike or public transportation might not suit someone's lifestyle. Rather than see them turn to private cars, Levine hopes that permanent on-street parking for car charing would make it more attractive to people. "The correlation to the reduction in car ownership is much clearer [than with Citi Bike] and therefore I would hope it would be more readily embraced by communities," Levine said.
"Bottom line is there are more than a million and a half private cars in this city, and not enough room to park them all, as anyone who's ever looked for a parking spot in Borough Park or Forest Hills or anywhere in Manhattan knows all too well," Levine said.