Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Car Sharing round up

Car sharing continues to experience growth, new entrants, and service and amenities options change concomitantly. Here are some recent developments.

1.  Split shared ride service launches in DC.  Split is a new service that allows for shared or combined rides in a taxi-like service for people traveling in the same direction.

It's not quite car pooling, but allows for multiple users and trips to particular areas to be served in "one trip."

DC is the pilot launch city for the service and currently the service is limited to the city's core-Georgetown University on the west, Capitol Hill on the east, Columbia Heights on the north, and Constitution Avenue as the southernmost point, with expectations that the service area will expand as the user base and demand grows.

Unlike taxis, the service will have designated pick up and drop off points, more like bus service.   From the company:
A key component to Split’s technology is the addition of minimal walk time to designated pickup and drop-off points throughout the service area. Riders will walk about a block and are expected to be at their pickup point at the designated time to ensure minimal wait time for drivers and other passengers. Split used DC’s open data to identify points in legal stopping areas, avoiding crosswalks, bike lanes, and other disruptive locations. Clear and expected meeting points reduce wait time and increase safety for riders, drivers and other people on the street.

Through a network of Split contracted drivers, specific vehicle types will differ, but will each carry prominently displayed Split branding. That identification, combined with Split’s real-time routing technology and point network, means increased efficiency as riders and drivers can quickly and easily connect.
In response to problems with other ride hailing services, the company has rigorous hiring protocols, including in-person interviews and has put strong insurance coverage in place.  Because of the shared ride approach, Split will use fewer vehicles--reducing traffic instead of increasing it.

Also, because each trip involves multiple fares, drivers should make more money compared to the single-ride approach of other services, making the service a stronger income generator for otherwise independent contractors (cf. Emily Guendelsberger's take down of Uber income claims in the Philadelphia City Paper, "I was an undercover Uber driver").

Note that in the old zone pricing system for DC taxis, taxis could pick up additional fares while traveling on a trip.  That capability was disallowed when traditional taxi metering was instituted, and this change likely accounted for a fair amount of the loss of income on the part of taxi drivers, plus making the use of taxis as transit less efficient.

2.  BMW DriveNow: upscale car share with an all electric fleet.  BMW has entered the car share game too.

It strikes me that they are marketing their program to people who see the car they drive as an extension and reflection of their personality and self-image versus people who see a car as a conveyance, and use car share in terms of utility.

The cost is $12 for the first 30 minutes, and the price per hour is as much as double compared to Zipcar.

Right now the service is in San Francisco, and in 7 cities in Germany, Austria, and the UK (London)--only SF and London are all electric. But because they can't get a master permit for street parking, the cars can only be parked in specific areas.  From Automotive News ("How BMW cracked the streets of San Francisco"):
DriveNow allows its cars to be parked on the street in just five neighborhoods of San Francisco, and achieving that took a level of work that would be impractical, and unprofitable, to repeat in every corner of every city across the United States.

The far reaches of San Francisco, and the highly regulated, $3.50-per-hour spots of downtown, are still off-limits except for designated parking lots. The parking rules are too complicated; the risk of a car being towed is too high.
The neighborhoods are Bernal Heights, Haight-Ashbury, Mission District, Noe Valley, and Potrero Hill/Dogpatch.

When the system launched in Europe, they used Minis.  By contrast, the car used in the US is more upscale, the ActiveE, an electric demonstration vehicle based on the BMW 1 Series of smaller cars. The company is looking to Seattle as its next market.

3.  Car2Go, the one-way car sharing service owned by Daimler Benz, featuring SmartCars, and operational in 16 cities across Europe and 15 cities in the US and Canada, is particularly successful in Seattle according to the Seattle Times ("Car2Go expands to cover all of Seattle"). From the article:
Car2Go has added 250 vehicles and stretched its Seattle territory, into the far north and far south areas of the city, the company announced Tuesday.

That brings the total number of petite, white-and-blue vehicles to 750, roaming 83 square miles. About 63,000 people have enrolled in Car2Go here and taken some 2 million trips during two years through the close-in Seattle neighborhoods — the highest use in the U.S., according to Michael Hoitink, location manager for Car2Go Seattle.
This is significant because I remember Harriet Tregoning, former planning director of DC, chortling in a presentation about how DC had the highest take up rate for Car2Go when it was introduced, and high membership for bike share. The reality is that after early take up for both, membership has hit a plateau.

Although according to online data presented within the website, DC has 421 car2go vehicles to Seattle's 233.

Photo from Greenpoint Gazette.

Car2Go launched in Brooklyn last fall, and as of last month, had 26,000 members, and recently expanded from its original 31-square mile footprint to 36-square miles, covering almost 40% of the borough (Brooklyn is about 97 square miles).  See the Brooklyn Daily Eagle story, "Car2go expands its home area in Brooklyn."

4. Zipcar DC loses spaces at Metrorail stations.  In DC, Flexcar had the original "franchise" to have cars in Metrorail station parking lots, which helped to spread the acceptance of car sharing in the DC market.  They became Zipcar spaces when Flexcar was acquired.  But WMATA put out the contract to bid, and Zipcar was outbid by Enterprise Car Share.

Whether or not this will help Enterprise build market share is an open question, since at least in the core, Zipcar tends to have a fair number of cars placed around Metrorail stations anyway.

5.  Ford launches car share in London. The Detroit News reported earlier in the week that Ford launched half electric/half conventional car share, called GoDrive, in London.

It's one way, but each use is combined with parking at the end of the trip, at a designated hub.  More like bike share.  This is necessary because of the difficulty of finding on-street spaces, and the inability to have a "master use permit" comparable to how car2go or Zipcar work in cities like DC.

Ford is exploring other types of car sharing services in the US, Germany, and India. In Germany, the expanding program is offered in conjunction with car dealerships and in Dearborn, the experiment focuses on Ford employees, who can use different cars according to their trip need and purpose.

6.  It's always worth re-mentioning that Hoboken, New Jersey is particularly advanced in utilizing car share as a way to manage demand for scarce on-street parking spaces.  See "Cars at Curbside, Available to Share" from the New York Times.

Consideration of car sharing vehicles as a transportation demand management tool as well as a means of support for residents who use cars but don't own them--mostly local policies and practices concerning car storage on public streets privilege car owners--justifies the "use" of "public space" for "private interests" (cf. "With Car2Go, questions on private use of public space," Brooklyn Daily Eagle).

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At 1:21 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

car2go is starting a $1 a trip surchage will hurt DC users, although probably other cities will not feel it. Many of my trips are less than $5.

The electric smart cars seems a bit disappointing, the powertrain works well but the added weight of the battery+new steering kills the fun feeling.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I did think about mentioning that. Didn't look into whether or not it gets put in across the board. If not, there might be a higher damage rate in DC.

I'll try to find out.

2. I only drove an e-smart car once. I drove it on a freeway in San Diego among other places. I thought the ride was great.

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Tim H said...

I'm very interested in the Hoboken car-sharing. Recently in the discussion of Big Ideas (or lack thereof) in DC transportation, one that occurs to me is a citywide policy support of car sharing in whatever form that might take... for instance, renting on-street spaces to zipcar or other car-sharing services in a widespread manner.

I could be wrong, but it seems that greater adoption of car-sharing should help reduce the competition for parking, which in turn should reduce some of the pushback on development, density, and eliminating parking minimums... although parking demand will still be fervent as long as we are giving away residential permits for $35/year instead of anything approaching the true value of that space.

And this idea costs little or nothing. Right now cars need to be moved for street cleaning, but I think DC could just mandate that the car-sharing service keep the street space under/around the car clean. Employees have to come out weekly or so to clean the cars themselves so I don't think this would be a problem.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I think as part of the agreement on dedicated car sharing spaces, the service does agree to maintain it. With that comes the privilege of towing cars out of those spaces...

2. it's understood that car share is a way to manage demand and parking supply.

But in DC, the focus has been on generating revenue from the spaces by charging higher rates.

I've complained about it, because this cost is passed through in higher charges to "members" who are non-car owning residents.

I don't think it's fair that car using residents of car share end up paying a lot more to park cars on the street than do car owning residents who pay $35/year for a permit.

But these kinds of issues aren't discussed.

HOWEVER, I hate to admit that I haven't read most of the MoveDC plan, and maybe this is discussed.

I'll get to the plan at some point...


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