Would anybody ever say no to a carshare car?

Spoiler alert: Betteridge’s Law applies.

Friends of the Blog Malcolm Burnley (of Citified) and Jon Geeting (of Plan Philly) have been taking very hard looks at the economics of putting more carsharing cars on the streets of Philadelphia, and it’s very good reading. But I’d like to unpack something that Jon mentioned in his piece:

The reason [we aren’t seeing Zipcar and Enterprise more aggressively going after cheap curb spaces] appears to be that the process the city has devised for renting out PPA-managed spaces adds too many soft costs to be worth it for rental companies to spend the time pursuing them.

If Zipcar or Enterprise wants to rent just one publicly-owned parking space, they need a letter from the adjacent property owner (if applicable), they have to make a presentation to the local Registered Community Organization (RCO) and get a letter of support from them, and they also need a letter of support from the District Councilperson.

Something about this is very broken. Even under the most venial interpretation of the support requirement, the RCO and District Councillor veto points are a waste of everybody’s time. District Councillors can pressure (or even shake down) the companies much more effectively, through means other than approving or disapproving individual pod spaces. And no RCO in the city is ever going to going to find a legitimate reason to say no to an amenity in their neighborhood that reduces the demand for on-street parking. Even RCOs with a BANANA ideology usually think that abundant parking is a good thing, or at least fret about every household having two cars. In neighborhoods where parking is tight, reducing parking demand will result in an immediate uptick on everyone’s quality of life. In neighborhoods where parking is abundant, who is going to even bother caring?

As Geeting points out, the current system has led to an absurd state of affairs where Enterprise has 74 on-street spaces, mostly inherited from local predecessor PhillyCarShare which accumulated them aggressively despite the soft costs, while national sector leader Zipcar has only 11 curb spaces, citywide.

We’ve run the carsharing experiment for over a decade now. Enterprise and Zipcar are good neighbors that provide a good service that helps not only their members, but the city overall. It’s time to update the law and let them put a shared car on any block where a property owner or owner wants to invite them, and the market will support it staying there. Let a thousand pods bloom.

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  1. I think you’re underestimating the resistance of people to losing a parking spot. Sure it’s a shared vehicle, but does anyone /really/ use it? I don’t have an account, so you’re taking parking away from me. Etc Etc Etc.

    Not sure yet how to win that argument out in the neighborhoods.

    Tangent, but one thing that could be cool: Give developers double or triple credit for shared vehicle pods against their parking requirements.

    1. Hence the requirement to have the approval of the property owner adjacent to the space. “Your parking space isn’t being taken away, mine is, and I don’t care. You don’t like it, park in front of your own house. Oh wait, you do.” Which is not to say that self-refuting arguments have never had legs in Philadelphia, but this one seems like it’s particularly unsustainable.

      I am all about giving bonus credit to developers for carsharing. That seems like an even easier political lift.

      1. Hmm, but what if the adjacent owner is actually saying “Your parking space isn’t being taken away, mine is, and I don’t care, because I work the early shift, so when I come, while you’re still at work, I’ll just park in front of your house.” ?

        It just seems to me like there’s a lot of potential for NIMBYism here.

          1. I was going to ask about that, whether anyone had done any research into whether anyone had actually ever had a hard time getting RCO approval.

            Also, I might have misunderstood what you meant by “the RCO and District Councillor veto points are a waste of everybody’s time” — did you mean that the author’s claim (that RCO approval is a problem) is bogus, or that requiring RCO approval is bogus (and the author is right that this is an impediment to Zipcar expanding)?

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