This weekend a new carsharing service will begin operating in the District, providing residents and visitors with yet another option for moving about the city.
That’s what we’re all about at DDOT: providing mobility choices that support a safe and efficient transportation network. Carsharing, is a complement to the District’s investment in transit, bikesharing and other modes of travel, and enables residents and visitors to own fewer cars, thus realizing environmental and economic benefits.
Carsharing also provides convenient access to vehicles when they’re needed, without the costs of ownership and maintenance. As DDOT has supported carsharing over the years, we have also come to realize that people need to use cars for different reasons: sometimes they need a pickup truck for a trip to the hardware store, while other times they need one for a longer trip out of town for the weekend. Others might need a car for a quick errand or to visit a family member in the hospital. Whatever the need, we continue to work to find new ways to support carsharing as part of the broader transportation system, and to build on the success it has already enjoyed in the nation’s capital.
District’s Initial Foray into Carsharing
In October 2005, DDOT implemented a reserved curbside carsharing program to provide high-visibility access to carsharing vehicles in the District of Columbia. The program specifically reserved 86 public parking spaces for carsharing purposes, providing the carsharing companies (Zipcar and Flexcar at the time) with space and visibility to market this then-fledgling service.
The original spaces were located in all 8 Wards and each quadrant of the city. DDOT’s overarching goal in implementing the program was to provide District residents with an alternative transportation option, reduce vehicle ownership and relieve traffic congestion.
Since 2005, Zipcar’s membership has grown considerably, as has their presence both in public space and in private leased space. A 2011 Washington Post survey found that 33 percent people who had lived in the District for less than ten years were Zipcar users.
The use of curbside space for car sharing purposes has been replicated by a number of American cities, as the promise of reduced vehicle ownership and reduced vehicle trips has been realized.
District Responds to Market Changes in Carsharing Industry
In October 2011, in response to the dynamic changes in the carsharing market and the introduction of multiple carsharing providers, the District put out for bid the now-84 reserved carsharing spaces in its inventory.
As a result, in February 2012, Hertz on Demand began to operate out of 23 of the reserved curbside spaces, providing District residents with an alternative carsharing provider to Zipcar. Hertz continues to expand its fleet in the Washington region, as it looks to become a mainstay in the car sharing industry.
Point-to-Point Car Sharing Coming to the District
In late 2011, DDOT published proposed and final regulations allowing for the operation of a point-to-point carsharing program in the District. Unlike the traditional model of carsharing, the program allows members – who may be District residents or visitors – to pick up vehicles in one location and drop them off in a different location. The program is similar to models currently operating in Austin, Texas, Vancouver, San Diego, and Amsterdam.
Car2go will be the 1st point-to-point provider to operate in the District, launching on March 24, 2012. All of the vehicles in the fleet are blue-and-white Smart Fortwo vehicles. Unlike traditional carsharing models, reservations are not required to rent a car and members are charged by the minute.
In remaining true to DDOT’s original goals of reducing vehicle ownership, the program will hopefully entice residents to forgo purchasing a new car or sell an existing one. In issuing the permits for the program to begin operation, DDOT required coverage in all 8 Wards and imposed restrictions on how cars need to be rebalanced. During the initial year of the program, DDOT will also work to evaluate the benefits and impacts to the transportation system through data on usage provided by car2go and a survey of members to understand who is using the service.
The introduction of point-to-point car sharing will provide residents and visitors to our region with another robust transportation option that complements Metrobus, Metrorail, Capital Bikeshare, the Circulator and traditional carsharing service.
Continuing to Support Innovative Programs in the Future
DDOT’s history of supporting innovative programs that help provide transportation options and help residents and visitors feel mobile without needing to own a personal car will continue into the future. As an agency, we have attempted to foster new options, allowing new vendors and operators to enter an increasingly competitive environment to provide a range of services in the District, while making sure these options are available throughout the city. And we will continue to identify and support new types of operations that add to the quality of life in the District and help us meet all of our transportation needs.
Associate Director for Policy, Planning and Sustainability
Carsharing Project Manager