As Car2Go Eyes NYC, Will DOT Put a Price on Curbside Parking?

Many New Yorkers are familiar with car-sharing services — like Zipcar, Hertz Connect, Enterprise CarShare, and Carpingo — that charge by the hour or day, with a reserved space where customers must start and finish a round-trip rental. Daimler-owned Car2Go operates differently: it charges by the minute or hour, and is focused on one-way rentals, allowing users to return a car to any on-street space within the company’s service area. The company, already operating in ten North American markets, is eyeing New York.

A Car2Go vehicle in the UK advertises free parking for customers -- but the company actually pays a significant amount to cities in order to use curb space. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/9049300469/##Elliott Brown on Flickr##

“In the last few months, Car2Go has met with several New York City community groups, as well as NYC DOT,” Car2Go East Coast business development manager Josh Moskowitz said in an e-mail. Those meetings included a presentation to the transportation committee of Brooklyn Community Board 7, which covers Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, indicating that the company is looking beyond Manhattan.

While the potential entry of point-to-point car-sharing to New York has implications for transportation behavior (Will it induce more car trips? Will it encourage households to go car-free?), it also raises another important question: How much is a parking spot worth?

When it launched a 200-car fleet in Washington, DC, last year, Car2Go paid the local government $578,000 annually, or $2,890 per car. The payment granted its users unlimited access to all residential permit zones and metered spaces at no direct cost, though the cars are still subject to rush-hour and street-sweeping restrictions. (The District government’s car-share manager at the time was Josh Moskowitz, before Car2Go hired him.)

When the company decided to expand its fleet by 100 vehicles, it paid the DC government an additional $215,300 per year, or $2,153 per car. In Portland, Car2Go pays the city $1,009 per vehicle per year for curbside access.

It’s not just general access to the curb that’s being sold for thousands of dollars each year. Car-share services are also paying cities for specific parking spots. In 2010, the DC government auctioned off 86 curbside parking spaces to car-share companies, fetching an average of $3,485 for each space, according to TBD.com.

Instead of an auction, San Francisco has opted to give car-share services access to hundreds of spaces in exchange for set fees. High-demand areas would command higher prices; as a result, the city expects to earn anywhere from $600 to $2,700 for each space annually. In Los Angeles, the city has entered into an agreement with Hertz in which the company pays at least $1,500 per space each year [PDF].

These prices are far higher than what private car owners pay to park in most curbside spaces — which is basically nothing.

Streetsblog SF recently noted the discrepancy:

While [car-share companies] — which offer services that make it easier for residents to go without owning personal vehicles — will pay up to $225 per month for reserved spots, private car owners will generally continue to pay nothing for the use of unmetered spaces. While it makes perfect sense to charge car-share companies a fee for on-street spaces, the new policy highlights the absurdity of giving away the same precious real estate for the storage of privately-owned automobiles.

In some cities, there’s a minimal cost to store cars on public streets: San Francisco charges $106 per year for a residential parking permit, while DC charges just $35. But these are “hunting licenses” that grant permission to park, not prices for actual curb space, and aren’t comparable to what car-share companies pay.

Here in New York, there is no RPP program. With the exception of metered commercial areas, which are dwarfed by un-metered areas, curbside parking is given out for free on a first-come-first-served basis. And even most metered spots are underpriced compared to nearby off-street spaces, leading drivers to cruise in search of a curbside bargain.

Will the arrival of point-to-point car-sharing provide a glimpse of what curbside space is really worth? DOT has not entered into curbside agreements with car-sharing services, and while the agency has had preliminary conversations with Car2Go, it says it is not in discussions with the company at this time.

It’s possible that Car2Go could start operating in New York without illuminating the value of city street space at all. DOT noted that by using free on-street spaces or off-street parking, Car2Go could still set up shop without requiring the agency to draw up an agreement that might charge for curbside access.

  • I’m not sure whether to be for or against this service. On the one hand, if it induces fewer people to own cars, then we will need fewer parking spaces and can convert more of those spaces to other uses, such as parklets and bike lanes. On the other hand, if it substitutes for notoriously slow transit trips currently endured by the car-less, such as local bus trips, it will make overall congestion even worse.

    Such a service could eventually be a key part of a city with private cars reserved only for those who truly need it. But without congestion pricing or some other means of restricting non-car2go cars from city streets and parking spots, this could make things worse in the short term.

  • Anonymous

    I think carshare reduces car use, because people who sometimes need a car no longer buy one.

    Once you buy a car, you have already sunk thousands of dollars into fixed costs, and have an incentive to use the car as much as possible “to get your money’s worth”. Each incremental trip is usually pretty cheap, as long as you don’t have to pay market rate for parking at the destination.

    If you only use carshare, you have to pay as you go, which gives you an incentive to use it as little as possible. Note that this is not like bikeshare with it’s all-you-can-eat approach (as long as your trips are shorter than the limit), but more like a taxi, with a meter, that you just happen to drive yourself. The price is closer to a taxi fare than it is to a transit fare: each incremental trip is much more expensive with carshare that with “carown”.

  • In NYC, where most people already don’t own cars, it’s hard to tell how this would shake out though. A lot of people will start making car trips who weren’t making any before. I haven’t seen any good numbers about how car-share affects driving in a city like New York.

  • Anonymous

    So many privileges adhere to private car ownership, and punishments apply to car renting or sharing, that the deck is stacked against this type of thing in New York. I rarely bother with Zipcar anymore because the rental car taxes are so high. Private cars are charged what, $40 a year in registration fees? Somebody who uses a car sharing service once a month, in addition to paying their share of the registration fee for the car, will pay much more than this in taxes even though their impact is vastly lower.

    I would almost suggest that DOT ought to allow vehicles in car-sharing fleets to park for free in metered spaces as a way of evening the score.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this would work without reserved spots in many New York City neighborhoods. It is too hard to find on street parking.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Car2Go:
    1. Buy/build a bunch of towable trailers (flat. Low. Wide enough to fit a Smart Car on the back. Ramps permanently attached at the rear).
    2. Register them somewhere legally.
    3. Tow them to parking spots in NYC. Make sure those spots are on corners so the trailer ramps are accessible.
    4. Deploy your fleet and profit!

    Tickets on your trailers for alternate side parking will undoubtedly be lower than $2890 per car.

  • Anonymous

    I dont think many parts of Queens and Brooklyn are different from other places where car sharing has had huge success in reducing car ownership for its users (like in the Bay Area). As for Manhattan and inner Brooklyn, a lot of people tend to take cabs when they really need it so I see this substituting for that.

  • What you say certainly applies to traditional car-share like zipcar, which I unequivocally support. After all, zipcar is most useful for New Yorkers making trips out of town, to places where you really need a car to get around. Car2go, however, is a completely different animal. I understand it may induce a few more marginal car owners to forgo car ownership, but the vast majority of cars on NYC streets these days are out-of-towners, and a service like this is only useful in-town, so may induce New Yorkers to substitute car2go for local bus trips.

  • Ca42go shouldn’t even bother with Manhattan. This kind of service may be most useful in those areas just outside the dense transit corridors of Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, and western Queens. Beyond that, you’d need so many cars to make it a viable service, as the odds of finding one nearby would be rather low.

  • Ari

    Brilliant. That would get the message across that NYC does not value/price curb space as it should.

  • Ari

    If DOT sells specific spots to carsharing companies, that does reduce the overall supply of free curbside parking, which would likely result is lower car ownership rates.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not convinced that most cars on NYC streets are out-of-towners. Do you have any hard data? It depends on which part of the city, of course, but in many parts of Manhattan it looks (anecdotally) like most cars on the street are taxis. I think Car2go is going to be more of a competitor to taxis than to transit, given the prices (it’s $0.38/min + tax in Austin, but I bet that in NYC it will be much more expensive). In that case, you’d be substituting one car for another, the difference being that the Car2go is parked while unused, while a taxi is cruising around without passengers. Do we want to maximize savings of parking spots, or of active road space and tailpipe emissions? (I do realize that those are not the only two choices, and that ideally we want both.)

    I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding something about Car2go’s policies, but it seems to me that you can use it for out-of-town trips just like you can use Zipcar. You just have to return it within the coverage area, but you can do “stopovers” outside the coverage area (you still pay for the time, of course).

    That said, I agree with Ben that NYC is a special case due to low car ownership, so it’s hard to predict exactly how things will balance out. Looking at my personal experience as a carshare user, I know I’ve used it sometimes to substitute for taxi rides, and sometimes to make trips that I would have never made without a car (go to that big shop in NJ without a car? Fuggedaboutit!) But I used to have a car one time (not in NYC), and part of the reason I decided not to buy one when I moved to NYC was the knowledge that I could fall back on carshare as needed. Still, my carshare trips average maybe one a month, which I consider a drop in the bucket of everyday traffic.

  • Ari

    This is very exciting.

    Auctioning the spaces is the best way to go. But in order to auction, there has to be at least 2-3 companies in the mix.

  • JoeyStalin

    Once “Market rates” are applied to parking, we must implement tolls and “market rate” pricing for using bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

    Think how much revenue can be generated by slapping an EZ Pass on every bicycle and charging them by the block to use the streets? Then we can go to the next glorious step and implement congestion pricing on walking. Everyone can have a surgically implanted EZ Pass, or tag everyone with one through their ears like cattle, and be charged “Market Rate” for using the sidewalks. This will raise revenue and lessen crowding on our streets. We can charge by the pound, so obese people who take up more space will have to fork over more money.

    It will be a wonderful experience when everyone is charged “market rates” to use sidewalks and roads. By making some sidewalks more exclusive, the rates can be raised so that only the Rich can enjoy the sidewalks in certain areas. We can go back to may virtuous societies where lesser societal types are forced to walk across the street so as not to discomfort a higher social set.

    There are so many wondrous uses or this. There can be an immediate 100% on Right wing teabaggers, Christians, and Old White people. We can really extract social change so to speak from them once this plan is implemented!

  • Anonymous

    This is kindergarten-level trollery.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve often thought someone could probably make a business using the above steps – but with an enclosed box trailer – as an on-street bicycle locker (think: indoor bike corral). Room for ~10 bikes in their own locked compartment. Users have secure convenient storage, No need to haul your bike up to the 4th floor, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry but I can’t help but feed the troll.

    Dear Troll: Its widely known that wear & tear of roads (and sidewalks) grows exponentially as the weight of the user increases (see GAO study: Excessive Truck Weight: An Expensive Burden We Can No Longer Afford). I’d favor a $10 per year tax on people biking and walking, sure. As long as the tax is implemented as a function of the exponential damage of user weight: A car weighing 20 times a person, fat or thin, with or without a bike, pays not 20 times $10. No, the car is taxed at 20^2 times $10, or $4000 a year, in line with the damage it does.

    Not only is that fair from a roadway maintenance standpoint, it more brings drivers closer to paying for all that free parking we as a society give away to drivers (see Donald Shoup’s excellent book on the topic. Feel free to not reply until you’ve read the whole thing).

  • Joe R.

    Try weight to the fourth power. If cyclists or pedestrians pay $10 per year, then a 2-ton car pays $1.6 million. Other than that, you did a good job feeding this troll.

  • Joe R.

    The vast majority of rush hour car traffic outside of Manhattan is indeed suburban auto commuters. It’s true that outer borough residents use cars to run errands, but that’s a relatively small number of vehicle miles. Moreover, most people don’t run errands during rush hours.

  • Ari

    This reminds me of the abandoned tractor-trailer on Flatbush Avenue… that’s STILL THERE months after the story broke.

    http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/36/15/all_derelicttruck_2013_04_12_bk.html

  • Anonymous

    The mind races…
    1. Raise some money – Kickstarter?
    2. Buy a CONEX box. They’re $2 to $3k
    3. Have it delivered to some unmetered street in NYC. Cost- ??
    4. Make it look abandoned 🙂
    5. Make slight modifications; rent out secure bike storage!

  • Anonymous

    By using the road with a bicycle or walking, the person is NOT DRIVING for that trip and with the sales and property taxes that pay for most of the road construction are much better for the community than the pollution-emitting, noisy motor-vehicles that cause significant wear on our roads and to our living and breathing environment.
    Those who walk/bike/bus most of their trips are paying MORE than their share to road use via sales and property taxes.

  • Anonymous

    on-street parking is not priced high enough.

  • Malena

    I think its not safe to park car any where one should use some service providers like Gatwick Airport Parking

  • Lucas

    Although I agree with the first portion of your comments. Your last comments about “Right wing teabaggers, Christians, and Old White people” is full of Hate. If we changed the stereotyped labels above to groups and people that you have no hate for and agree with would it then be considered a bigoted statement? (which it is – bigotry is not exclusive only to those you disagree with and have hatred for) The reality is that these are not being put into place by the people you hate, but, by pro environmental groups that are doing everything they can to force people out of their cars. It’s a shame that people never look at themselves when they spout hatred…and when someone doesn’t agree with them they become an “ism” or have some “phobia” and so nothing ever gets resolved or compromised (on both sides) but your statement makes you exactly what you hate….someone that doesn’t think the way you do are just “Right wing teabaggers, Christians, and Old White people” Your not self righteous at all are you – your just “right”

  • carla grace

    though its a privilege of citizen to park their car at secure places. many companies are working for it. register the parking place for the car , to obtain with the facility shun to meet and greet parking Gatwick

  • perry cole

    In my view it not fine to park the car anywhere if one would not find the space at reserved spots. In that case there are some companies providing the secure parking service at cheap rates and so the one is

    cheap gatwick parking . Register your parking and keep your self out of hassle .

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