I’ve got a thread going over in GQ (now FQ, I guess) on EV charging stations in urban areas and something came up that isn’t quite GQ or FQ: car-sharing programs.
I used to live in a high-rise building in NYC (20 storeys) that had inadequate parking space. it had been built in the 1960s and one parking space was alloted to each apartment which worked until we lost some parking spaces (the city took over some land it had allowed the residents to park on) and couples started owning more one car. So there were waiting lists, flaring tempers, and general discontent.
I had the thought to invite a company like Zip car to occupy a small number ( say 10 of the 250 spots) of spaces, which I thought would discourage people from keeping privately owned cars. The building rejected my thinking (stick in the muds) on the grounds that I was offering to lose, not gain, parking spaces. So I went to Zip car and told them that they ought to pitch the idea to the building and show how it would fix our problem. After all, most people hardly used their cars–they drove them every few days to run errands, go shopping, maybe once in a while take a drive out of the city, but basically, the cars just sat there 90% or more of the time. Car-sharing was a perfect solution. Everyone involved, including Zip car, was totally uninterested in my idea.
I’ve since moved to Florida where much the same applies. There’s no space crunch here, but the wastefulness of everyone owning a car, maintaining it, etc, is crazy. I put about 100 miles per month on my car, which is more than most retirees in my development. I would LOVE for a car-sharing company to put a few cars on the property, but again, zero interest from anyone, whhich I find puzzling.
I agree that car-sharing programs would work for some people, especially to replace a second car that is used only infrequently. BUT, I used to work in an area where we could sign out pool cars and judging from how people treated those cars I can understand the reluctance.
Then there’s the fact that many people will want to use the shared cars at the same time - for example weekend shopping. There’s the other fact that some uses make the cars unavailable to other people for a long time, driving to a friend’s/relative’s house to spend the weekend, or driving to work for the day. (Tiered pricing might alleviate this - I don’t know what Zip or similar companies do today.)
I suspect in your instance another reason for reluctance is that the car would be shared with other Zip users outside of the apartment. So the apartment is effectively losing those parking spaces to provide a benefit to other people.
The companies that manage apartments often have a fairly conservative business model, most of which seems to involve extra charges that can impose on their unfortunate customers for poor or non-existent services. They would only innovate if they were struggling to find customers.
The ZipCar business model seems to prioritise on street parking provided by local government. Their liveried vehicles for hire are free advertising if they are visible to the public, not so much if they are in a private garage.
So maybe you were knocking on the wrong doors. These things will come, for sure. But it takes time for markets to develop and business models to be proven.
I have heard of car sharing schemes where the car is not owned by the scheme, but by a private individual. When they join the scheme, they get a kit fitted to their car that allows customers to unlock it with an app.
The idea is your car that sits for long periods unused, can instead be earning you a passive income. This is obviously a very attractive idea, but it requires a lot of safeguards.
Something like AirB&B for cars?
This is the biggest problem. The reason we have rush hour is that most people use their car at the same time. I would guess that even in cities where people primarily use public transportation that it just shifts when people are using cars to outside of working hours.
Also cars aren’t interchangeable. There seems to be a subset of people that just want a 4 wheels and a roof to get them from A to B but in most cases you need a car with a purpose. If you are heading downtown to pick up a date you’ll want a different car then running to home depot. Because of that the building would need to have a variety of vehicles and on busy times, say Saturday morning, all of the pickups will be signed out so you’ll go to home depot in the remaining prius or Friday night the sedans will be checked out and you’ll be taking the 10’ wide pickup to park in 8’ spaces downtown.
Most people can’t afford multiple cars so they pick the one that meets their needs most of the time but since it’s a choice you’ve made it leads to less frustration than when you show up for beach day and the convertibles are already gone. This also works with keeping cars clean when I get in the car in the morning and it’s filthy I can remember the trip to white castle on the way home from the bar last night on the other hand when I get in the shared vehicle I just get the mess.
I’m not sure how things stand everywhere, but where I live car sharing has come and died. Even supported by massive amounts of venture capital and backed by major automakers, it just wasn’t a viable business model. I think your ideas for where to implement car shares fall into the “good idea, but not financially viable” bucket.
The solution to running out of Zipcars would be to get more zipcars. And the solution to people using the zipcars who aren’t residents of the building would be to put more zipcars on the local streets (or in local parking garages or someplace.) Obviously this plan doesn’t absolutely guarantee everyone a clean car of their preferred type every single time they want one–that’s the drawback. But a good businessperson should be able to adjust the supply and demand numbers well enough to fix many of these problems, and the people who on rare occasions can’t get a car when they’d like one would be able to tell themselves “Oh well, I did save thousands of dollars by not owning a car last year.” Besides which, if you think about it, even private ownership isn’t 100% guaranteed–there are a certain number of times per year that you find you’ve got a flat tire, or a dead battery, and you adjust your plans. This would simply increase that number of times a little bit, and save you lots of money, which should appeal to a certain number of drivers.
The people for whom car share really seems to work is multiple-adult households who own one car and use zipcar on the rare occasion that they need a second car.
I tried it for a primary car and it was just too inconvenient, too many restrictions, and too expensive (especially compared to a paid off vehicle).