Going Car-Free? It’s On Us, Says Hoboken

Hoboken is now offering incentives for residents to give up their cars. Image: City of Hoboken.
Hoboken is now offering incentives for residents to give up their cars. Image: ##http://www.hobokennj.org/news/hoboken-launches-surrender-your-permit-incentive-program-to-encourage-car-free-living/##City of Hoboken.##

When it comes to getting people to give up their cars, Hoboken is taking the direct approach. If you give up your parking permit, and with it your car, Hoboken will give you rewards worth more than $500.

Giving up your parking permit is equivalent to giving up your car in Hoboken, where there simply isn’t any spare room to park. “It’s exactly the same,” said Hoboken Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs. “You’ve got to give up your car.” That makes the “Surrender Your Permit” program an unambiguous attempt to reduce car-ownership in Hoboken.

The rewards package is a grab bag of goodies for car-free mobility (or at least, personal car-free), including a membership and driving credits for the city’s Corner Cars car-sharing program, a free pass for the Hoboken shuttle bus and bike gear like a helmet and lights. And Hoboken is putting its money where its mouth is: Most of the freebies were donated to the city, but the lost revenue from the shuttle pass comes out of the city’s budget.

Not only is “Surrender Your Permit” an example of a full-throated effort to build a more walkable, transit-oriented community, it provides New York City with a lesson in how car-sharing can be an important livable streets tool if it’s tied in with other policies aimed at reducing car-ownership.

“The Corner Cars program was critical for allowing us to move forward with this program,” explained Sacs. In Hoboken, a full 60 percent of residents own a car even though they don’t use it to commute. Those residents weren’t going to give up their cars unless they could have access to a vehicle when they wanted one.

Corner Cars, when combined with “Surrender Your Permit,” is directly targeted at getting car-owning households to give up their vehicles. New York City’s new car-sharing policy, in contrast, isn’t connected to any other policy aimed specifically at reducing car-ownership, like reduced parking minimums, and so may ultimately increase total driving.

Next up for Hoboken, according to Sacs, are further improvements to the city’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure and an expansion of the shuttle system.

  • Glenn

    It also shows how charging for curbside parking permits can provide another barrier to car ownership.

  • J

    There are some great programs going on in Hoboken, which are putting NYC to shame. Amanda Burden needs to step up with REAL measures to reduce auto ownership and driving.

    On a side note, the Hoboken shuttle still suffers from being a loop system. It has been noted time and time again that straight routes are much more successful at attracting ridership.

  • JamesR

    I’m amazed at the progressive transpo stuff taking place over in Hoboken. I’ve been following Ian Sacs on Planetizen and Hoboken is very lucky to have such a visionary official working for them – I’m not aware of any other community in the entire metro area that is doing anything like this. What is it about the political milieu in that community that kept this from getting shot down before even getting out of the conceptual stage?

  • Ian Turner

    So, what benefit for those of us who never got a car in the first place? Rewards for repentance, but not righteousness?

  • But, um, unless they’re taking the permits permanently out of circulation, it just means someone else from the permit waiting list will get a permit. Which means the same number of cars in the city, just distributed differently. How is that worth paying for? What am I missing?

  • I clicked through to the city of Hoboken site that describes the program. I don’t see how this reduces driving, if they simply take all the surrendered permits and convert an equivalent number of spaces to car sharing. I would prefer having automobiles sitting dormant in parking spaces all week long to having car-share vehicles constantly being used.

    Now, if they were doing a Jan Gehl-style drawdown of parking spaces over the long term, and using the extra curbside room for pedestrian spaces, bus lanes, or bike parking, that would be a different story, and something I could wholeheartedly admire.

    Ian’s comment (no 4) is spot on as well. Why not go back to one of the ideas from the Shoup-O’Toole dialogue and create a cash-out for people without automobiles?

  • Noah Kazis

    Mike: There is no cap or waitlist for permits. Anyone who’s eligible gets one.

  • There’s no such thing as a Shoup-O’Toole dialogue. There’s a hack and an expert correcting the hack. It’s exactly as insightful as watching Richard Dawkins talk to a creationist.

    The reason the program could potentially be successful is that if people don’t own cars, they have less of an incentive to use them. If you already own a car, the visible marginal cost of driving is quite low: it consists of just gas, tolls, and parking, and is almost always lower than the alternatives. If you don’t, then using a shared car requires you to pay attributed and invisible costs like maintenance and depreciation, so it’s much more likely you’ll use public transportation, walk, or bike.

  • ChrisC

    >>On a side note, the Hoboken shuttle still suffers from being a loop system. It has been noted time and time again that straight routes are much more successful at attracting ridership.<<

    Not only that, but service frrequency and hours of service are abysmal. The run every 30 minutes when it should be every 10, 15 max. And there is no service night or weekends. The ONLY thing good about the service is the low fares.

    If they can only afford three mini-buses, they should have one going East-West across the city to connect with the 2nd Street HBLR, and another to connect with the 9th Street HBLR, than maybe use the third for a loop. But to have three overlapping loops with 30 minute headways is borderline useless.

  • Andrew

    I don’t understand this bit: “Giving up your parking permit is equivalent to giving up your car in Hoboken, where there simply isn’t any spare room to park.” There’s no off-street parking anywhere in Hoboken?

  • J

    Make bicycling easier into the city. Make the shuttle a more efficient means. What happens when you have dogs and a baby? I don’t think taking a mini cooper car share will work very well. How about on the holiday’s when everybody wants to take one? Make taller more efficient parking garages. Making parking more difficult for people does not make them get rid of their cars.

    It is not like you are increasing green space or anything, just make better, taller, more efficient garages.

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