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NYC to start selling public parking spaces to car-sharing companies

A pilot program will appropriate 600 parking spots.
Creative Commons/Shinya Suzuki

The city will roll out a pilot program in the spring that allows car-sharing companies such as ZipCar and Car2Go to rent out scarce public parking spaces and even metered spaces.

A shared goal of many city agencies is to minimize the number of cars in the city — on account of environmental factors, space, and traffic, among other reasons. The City Council Committee on Transportation heard testimony from the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation Polly Trottenberg, as well as representatives from some car sharing companies Monday that made the case that carsharing services can dramatically reduce the number of cars kept in the city.

The idea is to have a mini-fleet of cars available to more people in more locations around the city, even in the outer boroughs where parking garages and lots are fewer and farther away. For instance, several Enterprise cars could be parked around the corner from your apartment.

The proposal is based on a study conducted across five cities (Washington, San Diego, Seattle, and Vancouver and Calgary, Canada) showing that an average of nine cars were taken off the road for every ride-sharable car brought to a fleet. In Calgary, 11 cars were taken off the streets for each shared car.

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Although the term “ridesharing” has several meanings in the age of Uber and Lyft, the program at hand refers to the car rental services that allow members to pay a yearly membership fee, and then using a smartphone app or an access card, drive a car without a key for an hourly or daily rate.

Zipcar’s current promotion in New York and New Jersey for a basic monthly driving plan is $7 a month, a $25 one-time application fee and rates from $9.25 an hour and $89 a day.

The program would consider using some “underused” parking spaces designated for some subsidized residents in NYCHA housing, and senior housing and at hospitals.The pilot will designate 300 spaces in public parking facilities, and another 300 on-street spaces.

City Councilman Mark Levine, who helped author the proposal, explained that the people who keep cars in the city for occasional use would be financially and logistically better off getting a car-sharing membership.

“There are 1.5 million private cars in the city and millions more that come in every single day, and there is simply not enough space to put all of them. The only way is to find alternatives to private ownership. The companies' research says that as many as 50 people share a single car. So technically, the program would free up parking space.”

The pilot program would experiment with different business models, Levine said.

And the city wouldn’t have to pay a dime, he said, instead, the program would likely raise significant revenue for the city, a secondary advantage to the initiative.