Car share users are getting abused by the cities that ostensibly support car sharing as a form of sustainable mobility
For the most part, car owners are privileged by transportation policy at the national, state, and local level.
The ostensible point of car sharing as an element of sustainable mobility (along with walking, biking, transit, bike sharing, taxis/jitney services, and delivery services from the postal service to grocery delivery) is to discourage car ownership and car usage, but to have the option of using cars when needed. Making car sharing expensive and inconvenient encourages car ownership.
Even cities like DC with commitment to sustainable mobility can't help but focus on realizing extranormal ways to generate revenue from such services ("Another example of DC's failures in transportation planning: carsharing"), and prioritize making money off the firms and customers of the service, rather than planning for car sharing as one element in an integrated system within a community's sustainable mobility platform.*
I will admit when I first considered car sharing, back in 2003, I thought that it was important to charge commercial proprietors of such services for their use of the public space to conduct business.
But late in 2005, I changed my tune ("High Cost of Free* Parking Revisited and Car Sharing in DC"), recognizing two things. First, that car-using residents who are car share members shouldn't have to pay significantly more for using street space when compared to car-owning residents, regardless of who owns the service.
Second, the point of car sharing is to reduce the total number of cars attempting to park in the public space--it's a form of demand management, since research shows that 10-30 households use each car share vehicle, and they own fewer cars compared to similar households that aren't members of car share.
In fact, within the past couple weeks, CNN ran a story ("How car-sharing is already helping cities with their transit issues") on a car sharing study out of the University of California, which found that each Car2Go car share vehicle displaced 7 to 11 vehicles that would otherwise have been owned or used by a city's residents.
That's a clear benefit to a community that shouldn't be discouraged, given that center cities are physically constrained places that were not designed to facilitate automobile traffic and car storage.
(Car2Go is a one-way service. Other services, like Zipcar or Enterprise, are two-way and require that cars be returned to the original location. Many people, like us, are members of both types.)
Street use fees. By charging high rates for use of "public space" the users of the service pay much higher prices for the use of space than residents who own their cars. For example, in DC the cost of a residential parking permit is $35/year and many blocks don't require parking permits anyway. (In communities where they pay an annual personal property tax on motor vehicles, like Arlington County, Virginia, it's a different calculation, but nationally, few communities assess such taxes.)
But car sharing users end up paying higher usage fees for each trip because of a city's focus on maximizing revenue from the use of the space by a car sharing vehicle compared to a owned car "stored on the street."
Per trip taxes. I hadn't considered the impact of special taxes on car sharing "rentals" as another form of financial discouragement for car sharing as compared to car owners. Typically, major cities charge high taxes on car rentals and hotel stays as a relatively uncontroversial way to raise revenues, but on non-residents. Unlike traditional rentals, car sharing use is predominated by a city's residents.
A car share user in DC pays an additional 10% fee per trip to the city, beyond the usage fees, which already include payment to the city for the use of street space. This is another instance of privileging car owners over resident car users, as car owners don't pay the equivalent kinds of per trip fees and taxes (although they do on the initial purchase of a car).
Crain's Chicago Business has an op-ed, "Zipcar isn't a sin: why tax it like one?," by Professor Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University and the University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, which conducts a fair amount of research on transportation issues. The Institute just published a study, When Sharing is Taxing: Comparing the Tax Burden on Car-Sharing Services in Major Cities, on city policies towards car sharing including tax rates on use. From the article:
In a recent study I did with my colleagues at DePaul, we found that Chicago is alone among the 12 largest U.S. cities for taxing car-sharing, which we do at more than 20 percent, regardless of the length of the trip. This heavy burden is stifling an industry that can help improve our urban environment. ...Major findings from the study:
In Chicago, car sharers are being punished with taxes almost as high as corporate travelers flying to town on expense accounts and renting luxury sedans. The city saddles drivers with four different taxes that add more than 21 percent to the cost of a quick trip to Ikea. Instead of paying just the base price of around $9.50 hourly, drivers also pay almost two extra dollars in taxes for each hour. Over the course of the year, this can add up to more than $1,000.
When taxes on car rentals were established, few imagined that they would one day affect so many locals who opt to share rather than own
1: Eight of the 12 largest cities impose taxes of 15% or more on all types of reservations (1, 5 and 24-hours), resulting in rates of taxation at least 50% higher than local sales taxes.
-- at least DC, at a 10% tax rate, isn't the most onerous.
2: Nine of the 40 largest cities in the United States impose tax rates of 30% or more on 1-hour reservations. The majority of large cities have tax rates of 15% or more, putting them significantly above each city’s sales tax rate.
3: Even when consumers make a 5-hour carsharing reservation, lessening the effects of lump-sum taxes, tax rates remain 15% or more in most cities. As a result, it is common for users to pay taxes of at least $7 per reservation on these longer trips
4: Tax rates in large U.S. cities rose from an estimated 15.6% in 2011 to 17.0% in 2016.
5: Taxes on carsharing are now higher than almost any other travel-related sector, including hotel rooms and airline tickets. Meanwhile, the median rate of retail tax burden on other notable sectors of the share economy, including Lyft and Uber ridesourcing, is zero.
Once again, residents committed to sustainable mobility are being treated differentially and negatively, compared to car owners, yet one more example of how car ownership is privileged within transportation policy at all levels of government.
Updating the mobilityshed / transit shed concept." I suppose it is an extension of Robert Cervero's use of the term commutershed, and other writings about the distance people are normally willing to walk for transportation, called a walk shed.
The mobility shed is more about sub-district of a city or county, while the transit shed is cross-jurisdictional.
The concept of the sustainable mobility platform is an example of what some researchers call a "product-service system," here focused on sustainable mobility.
Relevant graphic expressions include:
The mobility shed concept
The sustainable transportation hierarchy by Transportation Alternatives
The idea of a complete platform supporting cycling, from the 2002-2012 German National Bicycle Plan