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.