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Car Sharing Program Could be Coming to Alexandria

The Alexandria Transportation Commission was briefed on the proposed program Wednesday night.

Alexandria is one step closer to having its own car sharing program following a generally favorable reception from the city Transportation Commission Wednesday night.

The program, Careshare Alexandria!, would initially provide parking spaces in Old Town Alexandria and Carlyle, Faye Dastgheib, a principal city planner, told the commission. “Car sharing, as we all know, is a cheap, green and easy alternative,” she said.

The only current on-street spaces reserved for car sharing in the city are near the Braddock Road Metro station, but that was intended to be a temporary fix, Dastgheib said.

Car sharing programs allow members to reserve a car for hourly use. Individuals can become members of a car sharing service by paying a flat annual fee. Members can reserve a car anytime, via Internet or phone.

Depending on the car share program, members may be required to pay a nominal monthly membership fee as well as hourly or per-mile charges based on use. Rates generally cover gas, insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance, according to the city.

Carshare Alexandria! would also reimburse residents for their first year of membership in a car share program. A survey of a pilot program, which was conducted of new members nine months after participating in the program in April 2012, indicated that since participating in the program, the car ownership rate among participants decreased by 18 percent, according to city documents.

Additionally, according to the survey, 7 percent of participants in the program are considering donating or selling their vehicle.

The recommended annual fee per space on Old Town would be $2,300 based on 2011 revenue figures and $1,500 for Carlyle. No more than two spaces per block would be able to be reserved for car share spaces, and leases may be granted for two years at a time only, Dastgheib said. Also, the fees should generate the same revenue over time that a metered space in the same location would generate.

The city attorney's office reviewed the policy and found no legal impediments to reserving spaces for a car sharing program, given that the vendor is selected through a competitive process, Dastgheib noted.

“It really does change people's behavior,” said Sandra Marks, division chief for transportation planning. “So it's really one tool we have in our toolbox.”

Commission member John Komoroske threw his support behind the proposal. “It's a wonderful idea, where we're more urban than rural,” he said.

Commission member Josh Sawislak asked whether city staff had any information as to whether car sharing reduces trips in single-occupancy vehicles. “I'd be interested to see the data on that,” he said.

Marks said even if the trips are single-occupancy, the expected number of miles driven should be fewer.

From a revenue perspective, Sawislak said, the city could actually lose money because there would be fewer cars to tax, making car sharing a true investment for the city.

Commission member Donna Fossum encouraged staff to look into collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions to coordinate car sharing use. The matter will go before Alexandria City Council at its Jan. 8 meeting.

The commission also selected a new chairperson, as chairman Kevin Posey has reached the end of his two-year term. The commission selected current vice-chairwoman Jennifer Mitchell.

Lee Hernly December 06, 2012 at 02:54 PM
The City already has ZipCar in the area so why not just allow ZipCar to the ability to get those spaces? Why spend the money??
McBrinn December 06, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Zipcar is a complete rip off. The rates are outlandish. You can easily Priceline a rental for about half the cost.
Justin Wilson December 06, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Lee--We're adopting a policy governing how much we will charge the car-sharing services to take public parking spaces. The rates in the article refer to how much the companies will pay the City.
Linda Kelly December 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Hi Justin-$2300 per year seems like an awfully low fee for a precious Old Town parking spot. I'm not sure how accurate that figure is and it is unclear from the article who recommended it based on what revenue. You all might want to consider by way of comparison how much a commercial lot per year for a parking spot.
Linda Kelly December 06, 2012 at 04:58 PM
*charges per year for a parking spot.
Lee Hernly December 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Thanks Justin - The article talks about Carshare Alexandria! and folks donating their own vehicles to the City.
Linda Kelly December 06, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Lee-the article is reporting on a survey that suggests some people who live in Alexandria would get rid of their vehicles if they had access to a car sharing service (either through selling them or donating them to private individuals or organizations, not to the city).
Justin Wilson December 06, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Linda: We did discuss that a bit last night. They arrived at those numbers based on the revenue that a parking space would generate (with meters) under normal circumstances in those areas. DC used an auction to award their car-share spaces. Council will be discussing this policy in January and figure out the best approach to do this going forward. There are a couple of options, and like you said, we need to ensure that we arrive at a number that ensures the City doesn't lose out financially, but also allows for a valuable service to succeed in the City.
Lee Hernly December 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
But what's confusing is how the article starts off: "Alexandria is one step closer to having its own car sharing program following a generally favorable reception from the city Transportation Commission Wednesday night." Considering that FlexCar/ZipCar already operates in the City, therein lies the confusion.
Yong December 06, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I have to agree with Lee, the article is confusing. To his point there are 6 Zip Car location within City of Alexandria. Is there data to support the demand for a second car sharing company? Justin what’s the motive for the City? The article hints at reduction of traffic but in reality this is not the solution. I’m confident after the Commission meet and review the cost, the ROI will not be there to justify unless the City subsidize the cost. As McBrinn mentioned – there is a reason why ZipCar is expensive. At the end of the day we need more info.
Justin Wilson December 06, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Yong: You are correct that the article is confusing. Here is the Staff memo from the Commission meeting: http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/tes/info/2012-11-07%20Agenda%20Item%204-%20Carshare%20Policy.pdf While there are presently Zip Car locations in the City, they are either on private property (spaces proferred by land-owners) or on Metro property. I believe the only exception is the street spaces on West Street by the Braddock Road Metro. This discussion was prompted by a request in the Carlyle area to devote public parking spaces to Car Sharing services. While the concept has benefits for the community, it is still ultimately a private company, and we have parking scarcity concerns, etc to take into account. To accommodate those concerns, as well as ensure that the City taxpayers do not lose out here, the Staff has proposed the adoption of a policy that would provide for renewable "leases" of spaces by the companies for a cost (as well as restrictions to the number of spaces on a block that can be "leased" to a car-share company. That is the concept that was before the Commission last night, and that is what will be before the Council next year. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Jonathan Krall December 06, 2012 at 08:43 PM
And yet, for some reason, we allow citizens to use many spaces on Old Town for free.
Jonathan Krall December 06, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The value in car-sharing is that it makes cars available very conveniently, thereby making the decision to go car-free easier for people who are frightened to try it. People I know who are car-free usually have zipcar or other carshare memberships. They don't necessarily use them a lot, but it is very reassuring that there is a car to be had on short notice if needed (imagine trying to rent a car in the middle of the night, when a family member calls with an emergency). The benefits to the city of reduced car ownership include reduced demand for local parking. One zip-car (and its parking space) enables more than one person to go car free, so the number of open parking places is increased, rather than decreased. By supporting car-sharing, Alexandria is staving off the day when there is so much demand for on-street parking that high prices will need to be charged for it in order to free up space for visitors.
Lee Hernly December 06, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thank you Justin for clearing that up. The article made it seem as if the City was delving into its own car sharing operation.
Yong December 07, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Agreed - thanks Justin and I appreciate everyone's comments.
Terri Hauser December 08, 2012 at 04:35 AM
How about let's not replace public parking places with car-sharing places. It's almost impossible to go out to eat or shop in Arlington because they have sytematically eliminated almost all parking. Just saying.
Jonathan Krall December 08, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Please note that one zip-car (and its parking space) enables more than one person to go car free, so the number of open parking places is increased rather than decreased.

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