City Hall

Car-Sharing Proposal Could Face Flat Tire

By Erica C. Barnett October 30, 2012

Seattle could get a new car-sharing program that addresses one of the main problems with Zipcar, the city's biggest car-share service: the fact that Zipcar users have to return all cars to the exact same parking spot where they originally checked them out. 

The potential new service, known as Car2Go, would allow users to drive a car from one point (within a designated part of the city) to another and leave it there, paying for their usage by the minute, instead of by the hour like Zipcar. The pilot program would allow a maximum of about 350 new cars on the road.

Usage and car locations would be monitored by GPS, as Zipcar usage is now, but drivers wouldn't have to return cars to the same spot where they checked them out. Instead, drivers could park the cars in any metered parking spot or curbside spot including spots inside Residential Parking Zones, with the guarantee that Car2Go would reimburse the city for any parking costs at the end of the year. 

Last week, city council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen, who introduced the Car2Go legislation, seemed stunned when some his fellow council members opposed the proposal. 

Pointing out that the idea behind car-sharing is that it takes cars off the road, Rasmussen told PubliCola, "The experience we've been told about from other cities is that private households that join a car-sharing service soon sell a vehicle. The goal of this is to make it less necessary for a household or an individual to own a car."

Opponents on the council, however, objected that the new service would allow cars to take up parking spaces that could otherwise be occupied by cars owned by homeowners who live nearby, or patrons of neighborhood businesses. They also questioned whether shared cars might threaten taxi drivers' business. And they argued that the boundaries for car-sharing would exclude low-income Seattle residents, like those who live in Southeast Seattle, from the new system. 

"We're putting more cars in the city and possibly clogging up [residential parking zones] where I will tell you, for a fact, that I don't know how businesses will respond," council member Bruce Harrell said. Harrell also argued that the pilot project, which be limited to parts of North Seattle and downtown, violates the city's commitment to race and social justice, because it excludes parts of the city made up predominately of minorities.

Ultimately, despite last-minute intervention from council members Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien, Rasmussen failed to get a second for his motion to approve Car2Go. Now, the car-sharing service won't be on the city council's agenda until mid-December. 

Show Comments