Car Sharing to Save Money and the Environment Just Got Easier with SFMTA’s Convenient On-Street Car Share Pilot.

By Andy Thornley

Andy Thornley is a practitioner with the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, currently leading the SFMTA’s on-street car share pilot project, placing hundreds of shared vehicles in curb parking spaces across the city. Andy was part of the SFMTA’s SFpark program, an award-winning federally-funded pilot rationalizing the way San Francisco manages parking through innovative technology and policy. Prior to that he spent seven years on the staff of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition in the roles of Program Director and Policy Director, during which time he also served as president of the board of directors of TransForm. Andy lives in San Francisco's Outer Richmond District with his wife, Tracey.


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Car sharing is a simple idea that’s already helping San Francisco achieve environmental and transportation system goals as it provides residents and businesses a way to reduce their parking headaches and transportation expenses while maintaining access to “just enough car” for errands and other trips. Research has repeatedly shown that every shared vehicle available to users results in private cars being taken off the road, with conservative estimates of from 7 to 15 vehicles taken off the streets for every shared vehicle.

Traditionally, car share vehicles have been located in parking lots, gas stations, and garages, where members can pick them up and drop them off, but that can mean a long walk to a semi-hidden location to use a car, hardly an attractive or convenient option for many people. And many of these parking lots and gas stations are being redeveloped into other uses, meaning that car share organizations (CSOs) are literally losing ground on providing access to shared vehicles across the city, even as the need for car sharing grows.

Car-Share-1Committed to encouraging car sharing as a practical transportation choice, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is conducting an experiment to allow car sharing vehicles to park in spaces right on the street, right in our neighborhoods. The data-driven experiment will test the hypothesis that access to car sharing reduces the need to own a private vehicle. The on-street car share pilot will make hundreds of on-street parking spaces available across all districts of the city for use by qualified car share organizations (CSOs) over the two years of the pilot. New on-street car share pods are already appearing in SF neighborhoods, perhaps you’ve seen one (or shared one).

Permitting private businesses exclusive use of the city’s curb parking raises serious questions about equity and the public good, so data collection and evaluation is a central aspect of the pilot. Participating car share organizations (City CarShare, Zipcar, and Getaround) will pay monthly permit fees for the parking spaces, and they’ll have to collect and share data with the SFMTA about how the vehicles are being used, and who’s using them. For each car share space, the SFMTA will receive monthly statistics on unique users, trips made, vehicle miles travelled, and other utilization and performance numbers. And the SFMTA will coordinate with CSOs to survey users at the start and end of the pilot to learn whether and how travel patterns and choices changed, including car ownership plans and commitments. At the end of the pilot the SFMTA will evaluate the data and potentially recommend making on-street car sharing a permanent program, if public benefits to the program are substantiated.

Learn more about the SFMTA’s On-Street Car Share pilot:
http://www.sfmta.com/projects-planning/projects/car-sharing-policy-and-pilot-project

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