Here's some follow up to yesterday's news that the city is looking at expanding car sharing services like Car2Go. (Car sharing, by the way, is different from ride sharing. Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft feature independent entrepreneurs getting gigs through online app networks that promote their goods and services. Car sharing is more like a "library" approach where customers use the app network to share the inventory for access over ownership.)
Yesterday, I reported that council legislation proposed increasing the current 500 "free floating" parking permits to 2,000 permits in 2015—making 500 available for four companies. Currently just one company, Car2Go, is using its 500 permits. Also under the new proposal, the city will actually make 750 permits available to any company whose service area covers the whole city: From NE 145th St. to the north to Rainier Beach to the South. Car2Go only goes to NE 125th St. to the North and S. Orcas St. in Hillman City to the South.)
"This proposal moves us to city wide car share which is where we should have been sooner," says Mayor Ed Murray's transportation advisor Andrew Glass Hasting—which brings us to the first update to yesterday's post.
The legislation allows SDOT Director Scott Kubly to increase the number of available permits in 2016 at his discretion.
While city council member and transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen is the council sponsor, the legislation was initially generated by Mayor Ed Murray's office.
Glass Hastings says the proposal is, "part of of promoting more travel options—transit, TNCs [Uber, Lyft], taxis, bike share, car share. It all helps get more out of our transportation system in the city."
Glass Hastings' reference to TNCs and taxis is a boast on his boss Murray who hammered out an agreement between TNCs and traditional taxi companies earlier this year which overrode council legislation that had capped TNCs. (Murray's proposal got high marks from a free market, pro-ride sharing think tank in D.C. earlier this year on the TNC front. But it got low marks for simultaneously shoring up the taxi monopoly with a medallion system.)
Second update: Going forward after 2015, the legislation gives SDOT Director Scott Kubly the power to increase the number of available permits in 2016 at his discretion. The proposed legislation states:
For subsequent years, SDOT shall determine by Director’s Rule the number of permits and operators based on data received as a part of the operator reporting requirements specified in the free-floating car sharing permit. In determining the number of permits and operators, SDOT will consider effects on reductions in personal vehicle ownership, effects on neighborhood business district customer access, whether free-floating car share is sufficiently serving low income communities, and other considerations that affect the public’s use of the right of way and travel behavior.
It's important to note that handing over parking spots to car sharing companies doesn't diminish the city's parking revenue. Companies are required to make up the difference if the permit cost, $1,703 each according to the legislation, doesn't match the number of hours their customers ultimately end up using. For example, Car2Go paid an additional $183,000 to "true up" last year. The fiscal note on the legislation estimates $2.2 million in revenue next year.
Third update: I've contacted two of the companies that are reportedly interested in moving into the car share market here, BMW's DriveNow and Zipcar. No word back from DriveNow, but I did talk to Zipcar. They were familiar with the legislation (the proposal itself notes that car share companies had shown interest in entering the Seattle market). Zipcar said they'd get back to me with an official comment on their interest. However, they did discuss the "free floating" model.
Zipcar currently operates in Seattle with a round-trip model as opposed to Car2Go's one-way model, but Zipcar has a hybrid model up and running Boston that allows one-way trips from fixed parking spots. They say their point-to-point alternative to Car2Go reduces congestion because there's no circling the block looking for that one free-floating spot. They also say their point-to-point model will better serve low-income and under-served communities because with locked in Zipcar lots, they can control where the cars end up rather than having cars pile up downtown, for example.