900 parking spaces leased to car-sharing companies in San Francisco

April 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

This summer, three car-sharing companies will receive 900 of San Francisco’s most precious assets: on-street parking spots. City CarShare, a Bay area nonprofit; local startup Getaround; and national company Zipcar will all participate in the two-year experiment that hopes to popularize car sharing throughout the city.

san francisco at night

San Francisco, a city perpetually low on parking and space, is leasing 900 spots to car-sharing programs. From Franco Folini.

The program, run by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), is the second iteration of a smaller, earlier version that involved a dozen street-parking spots. After deeming that test a success, the agency approved last year a plan to allocate a portion of the city’s 281,000 street-parking spaces to car-sharing businesses.

The selected companies are required to charge their customers hourly to prevent rental car businesses from taking over the allotted spots, which will be marked with signs and paint and assigned to a specific vehicle. Participating companies must also ensure that the vehicles are available for sharing 75 percent of the time so that the parking spots aren’t used simply for storage.

The program supports the SFMTA’s efforts to back car sharing throughout the growing city, where the amount of on-street parking is intentionally not being allowed to rise apace—hence, the agency’s support of car sharing.

“Car sharing helps us achieve so many of our goals as a city,” Jay Primus, manager of SFpark, the city’s parking management program, told the press. “It allows us to grow gracefully while still giving people access to a car.”

San Francisco has embraced car sharing but mostly in its downtown neighborhoods, with many users being younger or committed to a car-free lifestyle. The city wants to push beyond that demographic and geography and so has used a mix of incentives and regulations to distribute the spaces outside its central core. At least 30 percent of the parking spots will be in the outer two-thirds of the city, and the price charged for them will decrease in areas farther from downtown, where the monthly fee will be priced at $225 per space. Closer-in neighborhoods will be charged $150, while those in San Francisco’s outer third will be charged $50.

“It’s a big incentive to locate in the outer neighborhoods that haven’t really been served by car sharing,” Primus said.

Despite the program’s stair-stepped fee schedule and citywide distribution, he concedes there’s likely to be opposition. “The challenge for the MTA and the car-sharing companies is to get awareness of the benefits of car sharing,” Primus said. “Academic research shows that every shared vehicle takes ten private vehicles off the road, but we know that communicating that will be a challenge.”

Jessica Scorpio, founder of Getaround, understands the benefits. The company doesn’t maintain its own fleet; instead, it helps customers lease their own cars for short periods of time. That business model doesn’t add more cars to the road, she points out.

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