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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Car share news

Car sharing is fractional use or "time sharing" use of cars.  "Sharing" is a form of collaborative consumption, facilitated mostly by for profit firms, although some cities like San Francisco and Montreal have nonprofit car share programs.

A number of elements make it different from traditional car rental.  Cars are distributed in various locations in a community and drivers access the cars through telecommunications systems, smart cards, and/or mobile phones, not through an office-based check out and return process.

1.  Festival promotion.  Last year Enterprise Car Share (probably by overbidding) took over the car sharing contract to put car share vehicles on Metro station sites.  A few weeks ago, not particularly aggressively, a street team was out at the Takoma Metro Station promoting the service.

It seems like the companies haven't been as visible in street team and festival promotions, but maybe I am not getting out as much.

2.  Zipcar now has 1 million members, which is a lot, although I don't know if that number includes European and Canadian affiliates, or just the US.  It's still a big deal.

In the article over the weekend "about Ford" I mentioned the rise in car share use and decline in automobile purchases by millennials, although the Financlal Times just ran an article ("Millennial Americans still aspire to be behind wheel of their own car") based on a survey which found that millennials have the same interest in buying cars as other groups.

Regardless, there is still a marked shift at least in some segments as more households than before choose to not buy a car in favor of car use through car share and other means.  This segment will continue to grow, although it is likely to plateau.  Before advances in telecommunications and software systems it wasn't possible to serve such a market economically and profitably.

Zipcar is rolling out "one-way" car share, but compared to Car2Go it's clunky, you can't put the car anywhere in a "home zone."  You can leave it only in a very limited number of places.

3. With the introduction of the newest car model, Car2Go has upgraded their electronics and software systems, shifting to a mobile phone-based access and exit system, obviating the need to include more complicated electronic systems and screens in the vehicles.  The car is wider and has a better engine and transmission.

A few months ago, the company finalized negotiations with DC and Arlington so that car trips can start in one jurisdiction and end in the other.  This is great for people in DC traveling to National Airport, although the car has to be dropped off in Crystal City, which is some distance away.

4.  The upscale BMW Reach Now service, which originally launched in San Francisco but shut down later, relaunched in Seattle ("BMW’s ReachNow car-sharing service expands service area and adds more vehicles in Seattle," GeekWire) and is expanding to Portland next week ("BMW's Car-Sharing Service Is About to Hit an Important Milestone," Fortune Magazine).

They've shifted to a price per minute model, with various ceiling rates at 3 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours, and compared to the other services, charge less when the car is parked but still held by the user. Still, the price to the user is much higher than competitive services.

Airport access is a plus.  Unlike most other car sharing services (except Car2Go in Montreal), they have an agreement with the Seattle Airport to have cars parked there.

By adding Minis to the mix, they are able to lower prices, and according to Geekwire, they intend to add services and "quirks" to the program to expand its appeal:
Banfield told GeekWire ... that the vision for BMW is much more than just the free-floating car-sharing program. There are plans to launch a number of other services, including a concierge option where BMW brings you a vehicle, instead of you having to find one yourself; an Uber and Lyft competitor that will allow people to earn revenue by driving other users around in ReachNow cars; a way for people to drop off ReachNow vehicles at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before boarding a flight, or to pick one up after they get off the plane; or a way for BMW owners to lease their own cars within the ReachNow network.
5.  GM's Maven car sharing service  is expanding from its test markets to DC, Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore .  GM, which invested in Lyft, is already leasing cars to Lyft drivers in Chicago as part of the program.  In Chicago, they are testing a delivery option, although that seems like an unnecessary expense since drivers are unlikely to be willing to pay the true cost.  Remember that the secret to the supermarket is making the customer pick and deliver the order.  Taking on such an expense is costly.

Considering that the GM service entered the market a couple months ago ("GM’s car-sharing service hits the gas in the District," Washington Business Journal) and I had no idea, clearly they need to do some marketing, sponsor festivals, etc.

6.  Peugeot and Los Angeles.  Reuters reports that Peugeot, the French car company, will be launching an electric car sharing service in Los Angeles. They will be working with Bolloré, the company that runs the Auto'Lib program in Paris and the BlueIndy program in Indianapolis, although it uses a car manufactured by Pininfarina, an Italian company. If they switch to a Peugeot manufactured car, it could be a good way to rebuild awareness of the Peugeot brand in the US, just as Car2Go has increased the visibility of the SmartCar in urban markets.

Note that Car2Go uses electric cars in some markets, including San Diego.

7.  How to define success of the BlueIndy program ("Indy starts BlueIndy, all-electric 'car share' program," Indianapolis Star).  The program isn't particularly successful ("BlueIndy electric car-sharing: after 9 months, how's it doing?," Green Car Reports)--2,000 members each taking about 1.5 trips per month.  It does have access to the city's airport, which is a plus.

I'm sure there are various studies about what are successful conditions for car share just as there is for bike share ("The problem when you define every outcome as a success, you don't learn, and therefore failure is more likely: bike share in Seattle and Los Angeles as examples").  Frankly, the general characteristics are likely the same.

The challenge for companies is to make choices based on objective criteria for success, rather than expressed interest on the part of cities looking to be innovative ("City encourages less parking, more mass transit and car sharing," Star).  Although some of this is the process of learning ("Twin Cities car2go shrinks service area," Minnesota Daily; "Car2Go expands to cover all of Seattle," Seattle Times) and targeting service to the places it works best.

This shouldn't be a surprise because Indianapolis lacks the right set of urban design and mobility characteristics which support the adoption of a sustainable mobility-centric lifestyle.  For example, the city has minimal transit infrastructure and transit isn't used much by "choice riders."  From the Indianapolis Star:
Historically, the Circle City been one of the most drive-centric in the nation. The U.S. Census Bureau's most recent survey of commuters found that just 1 percent of Indianapolis residents take public transportation to work, compared to 11.5 percent in Chicago, 3.8 percent in Cleveland and 2.4 percent in Louisville.

The city also ranks near the bottom in the number of people who bike or walk to their jobs.

The new code allows developers of multi-family homes to reduce the number of required parking spaces by 30 percent if they build within 1/4 mile of a sheltered bus stop or main mass transit corridor. If they are 1/4 to 1/2 mile away, they can reduce the number of parking spaces by 10 percent.

Builders also get to reduce parking spaces if they replace them with bike racks, carpool parking or electric car charging stations.
Note that density and proximity between residential areas and activity centers and other prime destinations shape the take up of sustainable mobility more than zoning regulations.  (But the right zoning regulations help when you're working with a "Walking City" and "Transit City" urban form.  See "Transportation and Urban Form" by Peter Muller.)

8.  Metropolitan area deployment challenges: multiple jurisdictions.  WRT Peugeot and "Los Angeles," another challenge, like with bike share there, is that there are multiple cities and entities.  Parts of Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County cities like Pasadena and Santa Monica have the right antecedents, other parts don't, as Car2Go discovered in Minneapolis.

But having to negotiate separate agreements for each city as well as cross-jurisdictional privileges (like with DC and Arlington County and Car2Go) is difficult and expensive and will make it harder for car sharing to expand in areas with multiple jurisdictions.

This is an issue with airport access too.  Usually, airports are separately run from cities or counties and may be more or less willing to negotiate complementary agreements.

9.  A focus on fee, tax, and franchise revenues from car shares comes out of the pocket of city residents, while car owners get a free pass.  There is some question about the deployment and expansion of the BlueIndy program, and the city is looking for franchise fees which haven't been charged up to now ("City rethinking spots for BlueIndy stations" and "Hospital rail has franchise deal, why not BlueIndy?," Star).

With regard to the quest for franchise fees, as I have written about this in the past (Another example of DC's failures in transportation planning: carsharing"), it is a challenge for cities to look at this as a question of supporting innovation and transportation demand management  versus a revenue venture.
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.
The more fees that are paid, the more it cost to use the service for the end user.

The end users are residents of the city.  Why should they pay more for a car trip compared to a resident who owns a car. DePaul University just did a study on this, which I wrote about last month ("Car share users are getting abused by the cities that ostensibly support car sharing as a form of sustainable mobility").

Because communities are dominated by car owners who don't care much about fairness when it comes to payments by non-car owning residents, "members" of car sharing services pay cities much more money per trip than do car owners.

10.  Campus car sharing impact study.  Zipcar funded a study of the impact of car sharing on college campuses ("Car sharing on campuses improves quality of life, takes cars off the road,"  From the article:
The findings were promising: 
• The availability of car sharing allowed 30 percent of students who lived on campus to leave their personal cars at home.
• Forty-two percent of Zipcar users on campuses said that they are less likely to buy a car in the next few years.
• Thirty percent said they would have bought a car were it not for car sharing.
Campus car sharing has the same transportation demand management impact as in cities, such as in Hoboken ("Hoboken, N.J., Sets Up Low-Cost Car-Sharing Program," New York Times) where they found a significant reduction in demand for residential parking permits after the program was launched, which should be expected.

As Jane Jacobs said when she was asked "why aren't there enough roads? (or parking lots)," she countered "you're asking the wrong question; the right question is 'why are there so many cars?'"

As a TDM measure, car sharing should be encouraged, and users shouldn't be taxed and charged disproportionately compared to car owners.

11.  Car sharing and transportation equity.  A few years ago, the DC Housing Authority set up an arrangement with Zipcar, to serve their usually lower income residents, ("Zipcar Brings Car Sharing to DC Housing Authority," press release) but we haven't heard much about the program since although the program still operates.  It's not clear if other public housing authorities have developed similar relationships.

The Chicago Reporter ran an article ("Pilot program aims to bring car sharing to low income neighborhoods") about an initiative in Chicago that aims to serve low income neighborhoods, using the peer-to-peer Getaround car sharing program.  In that program, rather than buying and maintaining a fleet of vehicles, an IT and telecommunications platform and system links individual users and independent car owners (comparable to ride hailing services).

12. Nonprofit car sharing.  The problem with nonprofit car sharing is that the services are geographically bound and lightly capitalized.

Limited service areas make them less useful to people as they travel (for example I've used Zipcar or Car2Go in Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco, as well as in DC).

But from a business model standpoint, it means the service is smaller, costs more to operate, and has reduced access to capital.  Insurance is usually more expensive too.  For members, it often costs more to join and use too, compared to the for profit services.

Most importantly, when it comes time to replace cars, nonprofits don't usually have the money to do it.  Nonprofits in Philadelphia and Chicago sold themselves to for profits when they couldn't maintain the capital spending for their fleet.

Nonetheless, nonprofit car sharing programs in San Francisco, Boulder, Montreal and elsewhere continue to operate in the face of competition from for profit firms.

Governing Magazine reported on a nonprofit car share program in Buffalo ("A Zipcar that people can afford") which faces these issues.

Just as there are business cooperatives or "buying groups" that support independent retailers such as hardware or supermarket co-ops, probably the nonprofit car sharing organizations need to organize a similar arrangement to negotiate less costly relationships for purchasing cars and insurance and better access to capital (such as loans from the National Co-operative Bank).

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At 9:31 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I believe car2go killed the electric cars in San Diego.

The hope with zipcar is that it would inject some new DNA into AVIS and start treating "Transportation as a service" more seriously -- and be able to extract money from people on a monthly basis rather than 2-3 times a year.

That hasn't happened, and it continues to be more of a vehicle arbitrage operation.

And yes a lot of these services are about CAFE requirements rather than a business need. You would be mildly stupid to buy a smartcar. Very smart to use car2go. (Cough, Mayor Fenty)

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. wrt Avis, nah, because of the way that the car share programs are set up, with either pre-defined parking spaces and/or "free range" with a fee per car. Those don't lend themselves to adding cars from the regular Avis fleet when traditional car rental waxes and wanes. Although there can be marginal benefits from cost of capital, insurance agreements etc.

Although theoretically, it could work the other way, you could put more cars out there in the street, and develop part of your Avis membership to pick up cars that way. But it probably isn't a big enough segment to make a difference.

e.g., for longer term use of cars but still not owning, traditional rental is much cheaper. Suzanne gets great rates through USAA. But they are variable. It's much cheaper to go to National Airport than to get cars from Downtown or Union Station locations, so you have to be willing to do that. But even those rates are cheaper than the Zipcar day rate, plus come with unlimited mileage, which you don't get for long distance travel with Zipcar at the day rate.

2. I wouldn't say CAFE requirements shape the services, but they do shape what manufacturers produce. I think that just like how some people buy different types of cars to meet different types of needs, a SmartCar in the city is fine (I saw one years ago on I-95 in the vicinity of Richmond, which seems scary, not the electric versions though, which are awesome). But why buy one when you can use them fractionally?

3. wrt e-cars, didn't know about San Diego.

But I think that they are complicated from a service standpoint, because you have to rely on "members" to deal with plugging them in, and you probably need attendants traveling around monitoring, pulling the plugs, etc.

I wonder how this works in Paris and Indianapolis.

It's like with gas in the car share cars. Flexcar gave you a time bonus when you put gas in, Zipcar never did.

I suspect the reason car2Go stopped having members do it is because many put in the wrong type of gas. And the reason that Zipcar now has a fine if you don't put in gas when the car is less than 25% full is because members aren't doing it when they are supposed to do it.

4. But according to the article, it was because of lack of infrastructure. (And likely they didn't want to pay an extra cost to build out such an infrastructure.
"We're just not able to keep the cars charged, and people aren't able to charge them on their own," she said. "We're still committed to electric vehicles — it works in some of our cities in Europe where they have more robust charging infrastructure. We just don't have the infrastructure we need here to make it work now." ...

A fully charged Smart Car running on electric can travel a maximum of 65 miles, while a fully fueled Smart Car running on gas can go 342 miles, she said.

In San Diego, an average of 20 percent of Car2Go’s fleet is unavailable at any given time because the cars are either being charged or because they don’t have enough electricity in them to be driven.

The article says the local utility plans to build out a public charging infrastructure but they haven't done it yet.

... if I would have known about this, this would have been another element of the piece. Thanks.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Public charging, as I said we are in a standards war and it is unclear which one will win.

Putting a 110 line on a parking meter would be great for a small car2go or a hybrid. Useless for a tesla, which needs more power for 2-3 hours.

RE: Avis. Im sure you noticed that the zipper rental mix is getting more like typical rental fleets.

And again it billing operation. Would you rather have someone pay you $10 a month for 12 months, or 60 a year twice a year?

Not to mention insurance. I do think zipper members may get insurance at avis rentals, not clear on this.

(Again government role that we need to force car insurance on everyone and not just car owners in a zipcar/car2go world)

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... hmm, you know how a lot of credit cards include car damage coverage when you rent a car? I wonder how they treat membership in a car share, where each use is paid for by credit card.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

plus, while the "electricity in a parking meter" idea makes the most sense, the problem is all the people who park at the various meters, paying no attention, and crowding out the cars that need access to the electricity connection.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

@RIchardLayman; actually no.

Credit cards generally offer secondary coverage; and no coverage if you don't already have car insurance.

(Big issue for us, as the GF doesn't have car insurance, it would cost over $700 a year to add her to my plan, and it is real pain when she has to rent a car).

Some very high value cards do offer coverage, and AMEX apparently offers some sort of package.

But if you don't have car insurance, even driving a rental car without insurance is probably illegal. And certainly very bad if you have an accident.

RE: parking meters electricity. Yes, there is even a new term for it -- dock blocked or something. What I am saying is a more technical problem -- depending on the type of car you have charging it of 2 hours off of 110v isn't going to help.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, when I read those credit card provisions, didn't think about whether or not you have car insurance.

wrt "dock blocking" I understand the issue about fast charge vs. slow charge systems.

To be honest, it's not much of an issue if you own the car. You just make the right provisions, both at home and at work, for accommodations.

it's with Public systems, like AutoLib, BlueIndy, or what Car2Go tried to do in San Diego, where widespread access makes a big difference.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

OK I am not explaining the charging system thing well at all.

Basically 3 sets of "fast DC chargers", and the slow charger (Which are easier to install) aren't really adequate for purely electric cars (except very small ones like car2go or a golf cart).

Off topic: I got some cryptic email from Bridj that they are doing a deal with logistic and a major car company.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

will read it. You made yourself perfectly clear b4. And maybe this requires that the USG step in and require a particular set of standards, except that the crazy Republicans don't like this, they want "the market" to decide. But they have a facile understanding of how the market works and the necessity of standards (a form of infrastructure) to facilitate markets. E.g., this is why we don't have AM stereo radio.

The idea I am thinking is that somehow you make "smart meters" that include the connections and metering (charging infrastructure) but not the plugs.

Plugs should stay with the cars. So you don't have to outfit each meter with that equipment (unlike a hose at a gas pump).

And you could put in meters with promotion of their charging capabilities on whole blocks, and people use them as needed.

Portland has a block like that.

Hell, ticket cars that park there if they aren't e-vehicles.

Although reading the stories about Portland's "Electric Avenue" I guess you need a variety of charging options.

It moved...

2. this is classic, basic "market development."

3. the thing is that some of this argument is kinda "worthless" except for long distance trips.

Driving in and around "home" people have enough charge, and can set up charging arrangements at home or work/school, provided that workplace and school parking systems add the necessary infrastructure.

You don't really need it at the street, although you can set up designated areas, some retailers are doing it, etc.

It's the car sharing systems that need a public infrastructure to maintain the charge in a car, plus as we discussed above, you can't rely on the operator to do it right... although you could do back and forth communications by the app.

[Your car has 15% charge. You must plug it in or you will be charged a service fee of $50.]

[Closest charging station is XXXX Petrostate Drive]


basically, don't let people end their trip until this element is taken care of.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

chattanooga introducing electric car share.

because they have municipal utility it's easier, like with the high capacity internet.

... but we bid on the Chattanooga bike share system. I spent some intense time there. Probably their core is more bombed out than Indianapolis. I can't see e-car share working there particularly well, just as their bike share hasn't really worked either.

(in the bid too, you had to discuss being able to complement/integrate other green technologies including e-car, so I researched that too, learned about how electric power distribution is set up in the TVA service area, talked with people in EPB -- ELectric Power Board -- marketing and distribution divisions. Unlike PEPCO, they understand the value of marketing electric power...

not enough density or population in the core. Lots and lots of empty blocks (parking). So it'll be lightly used, like Indy.

plus they have an e-bus shuttle system moving people between various activity centers like the convention center and aquarium. I can't remember if it's free or not.

still a lot of vision and energy and interesting civic capacity.

because of tva, and the e-shuttle bus system they created, they probably could have become a center for electric power mobility technologies (e.g., Segway, small electric vehicles, even cars).

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

First, off topic:

I'll have to read up on the Chattanooga and Indy systems. An acquittance from law school ended up being on the city council.

The portland system also needs some reading up.

From a big picture, I think the autonomous car thing is bad for cities for the reasons I said before (then good enough version will be highway only). The electric car can be great for cities, but the charging is a real problem.

In my condo, for instance, adding a charger would be near-impossible. I eyeballed the cost at nearly 20K, you've got to get the condo board to sign on, and then deal with how to pay for electricity.

SO public systems -- like what they are doing in Portland -- is the only way to go.

Couple other points on this:

1. Intersting, with electric cars the system is how you decibel -- the "charger' is actually inside the car. and what you are providing on the outside is just a meter+plug.

2. The question is Level 1, 2 or 3. Level 1 is 110v, standard household plug, although you need to run a dedicated line since it over 1500w and can get hot. Good for hybrids, small cars, and overnight charging.

3. Level 2 is 220, same as an electric dryer and is really what you need for an electric car. If I had a level 2 I would be fine. Would charge up a LEAF in 4-5 hours.

3. Level 3 is DC fast charging. Now the downside is DC fast charging will actually kill the battery over the long term. This is a tesla supercharger. No way to install at home. You basically are plugged into the grid.

The standard fight is what plug to use. Nissan uses one, Euro+GM is using another, Tesla is using a 3rd.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

been underemployed for awhile, unfortunately, otherwise I really wanted to go to the European Green Capital in Bristol, UK in 2015, but I hope I'll be able to swing it next year in Essen.

What is going in Europe, yes, far ahead of the US.

2. back to e cars. I don't know, but I guess with e-car chargers, is it just a matter of providing multiple connectors?, like how the best air pumps for bikes have connections for the two types of valves.

I know your building is small. But for bigger buildings, they ought to be able to put in the infrastructure for the connections when they are constructing it/the parking garage. I don't know if that would bring the cost down.

And again, during the day, it's almost like you should set up a valet service to deal with day time charging, and move the car out once it's charged, and move another car to the meter.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yes, construction costs when building should be minimal - it just running dedicated lines. It is retrofitting that is the problem.

You've still got the billing issue, although solutions are coming.

Love the valet service idea.

Have you ever outreached more to the EU delegation here? They would probably like to talk city of culture/green city models. I know you got that thing for Hamburg a while back.

Also don't mock that bloomberg/mayors thing -- again if they had any brains they'd give you 20K and let you blog away.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

no s*** about the Bloomberg/Mayors (but it'd be nice to get more than $20K). Unlike Aaron Renn, I haven't managed to monetize/elevate myself via the blog. "I guess it's me, somehow." (e.g. i am not a trained journalist, but people like Emily Badger write what I wrote years ago...)

2. wrt the mayor's institute, it'st that it's a bad idea, just that they can do way better than they are likely to do so, because of flaws in understanding how to build the capacity for change and greater likelihood for success.

3. I was thinking more about block/neighborhood "electric avenues" and I guess it's akin to something else I suggest that doesn't seem to get take up either.

e.g., on the 1400 block of Park Road or Columbia Road NW there are lots of historic apartment buildings constructed with no underground parking and minimal storage. You see bikes locked up on fences, at the DC/USA etc.

I think that as part of "transportation management district" planning (yes, something we don't do, I laid out the concept 11 years ago), we would add higher capacity bike parking to such blocks, by creating underground parking and an above-ground kiosk, using the system, although there is an issue going underground in the public space for this use (although it's fine to use the ground level space for car storage).

no reason to not create similar accommodations for electric charging in dense places.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Portland Oregonian publishes guide to car sharing.


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