Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

On-Street Car Sharing, Coming Soon to SF

As early as January 2014, San Francisco will undergo a wonderful two-year experiment that I think is going to be a major success in what I like to call the sustainable urban mobility movement.
 
Car sharing is not a new concept. It has been around for decades in Europe, and for 13 years in the U.S. when ZipCar was born. Almost all of the cars in the U.S. are station-based, meaning that the car has to be picked up and dropped off at a designated location.
 
The experiment in San Francisco will have as many as 900 of San Francisco’s 281,700 on-street parking spots reserved for cars that are part of the car-sharing network. Four hundred and fifty spaces will be reserved for these cars in the first year, and 450 more in the second year.
 
I see several potential arguments arising against it, but I also see the resolutions to those arguments.
 
The main argument is based on the abstract concept of people thinking of parking spots as proprietary. Most drivers have a sense of “ownership” over on-street parking spots. They typically park in a rotation of between two to five spots in their neighborhood. If one or more of those spots is “taken” in this car-sharing experiment, emotional scarcity instincts are triggered. “You are taking away something from me,” is how the thought process goes.
 
But, with a little conceptual processing, one who argued against this experiment might find themselves quickly supporting it and actually wanting one of these spots in front of their house. It will be as if they have their own car parked on their street. The only switch is that they don’t possess it…they share it. And transforming the concept of possession into sharing takes a little time, not to mention trust. It’s a survival thing.
 
Another benefit that will emerge if this experiment takes root is that there will actually be fewer cars on the road, because if shareable cars are readily available, even on your very own street, fewer people will feel the need to own one.
 
To give you a glimpse of your urban mobility in the near future, a company called DriveNow has already taken it a step further with a concept that has woven seamlessly into the European urban experience. They offer a “free-floating” car service that is even more flexible and accommodating. Instead of bringing a car back to a lot or even a specific on-street spot, users leave it wherever they find parking near their destination, and are charged for the amount of time they spent driving.
 
Think of it as akin to the highly successful Amsterdam and Paris bike models, but instead with fully electric BMWs sprinkled throughout the city available whenever you want them. DriveNow has already begun making these cars available in many U.S. cities, including San Francisco.
 
SFMTA’s Andy Thornley, who is heading up the San Francisco project, will create the list of businesses providing the services. Any business that meets the city's definition of a car-sharing service is eligible to apply for the parking spaces, which will be divided evenly among the participants. Participants will pay an annual fee for each space, ranging from $600 to $2,700, depending on the location.

People of municipalities all working, living, (and driving) well together....this is truly an exciting experiment.
 
David LaBua is the author of Finding the Sweet Spot, founder of VoicePark, the mobile technology system that guides drivers by voice to the closest available on-street and off-street spot in real-time, and a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement.