By Michael McDowell
Earlier this fall, sharp-eyed West Side Rag reader Brennan Szabo noticed something missing on West 111th Street between Broadway and Riverside. Two parking spaces that had been previously occupied by carshare vehicles—part of an ongoing two-year citywide pilot the NYC Department of Transportation is running with Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare—had been removed. The spaces were there one day and gone the next, according to Szabo, the carshare signs apparently swapped overnight for the original alternate side parking regulation signs.
Carshare is a novel type of shared mobility—like Citi Bike—that many cities are implementing. The programs typically provide designated spaces for vehicles that are available to rent for set limits of time, often by the hour; fuel and insurance are included with a subscription or membership. Carshare programs present an alternative to individual car ownership in cities, and are designed to maximize the efficient use of a limited—and often scarce—resource: public parking on city streets.
What happened to the carshare spaces on 111th Street? According to DOT, in August, two carshare spaces on West 111th between Broadway and Riverside were indeed moved to 115th between Broadway and Riverside, the goal being to more evenly distribute spaces in Morningside Heights and increase access for all residents of the area. The new site had been vetted during the planning process by the community and local elected officials, according to an agency spokesperson.
Several hundred spaces have been designated citywide for the carshare pilot, in both municipal parking garages and on street in select neighborhoods, including the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights.
DOT has a multi-part evaluation plan to assess whether the sites allocated to carshare vehicles are fulfilling the program’s goal to provide new mobility options and shorten the often headache-inducing search for parking in the city; each quarter, carshare companies submit data to DOT showing membership numbers, fleet composition, trip records, and more, according to the agency. The department is conducting parking counts to see whether the presence of carshare vehicles has an impact on parking availability.
DOT is also working with the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, to conduct surveys of New Yorkers both when they join carshare and a year after, to determine whether the availability of carshare changed any car ownership or travel behavior.
The agency plans to publish a one-year and a two-year carshare pilot report, with the first report published by September 2019 and the second report by September 2020. This timeline aims to provide the city with adequate time to assess and summarize the impacts of the carshare pilot, as well as propose any future iteration of the program.
At a transportation town hall held in October, Council Member Mark Levine, who represents sections of the Upper West Side, West Harlem and Washington Heights, stated that according to data he had seen, every carshare is used by as many as 90 families over a 30-day period.
Some locals have contacted us to voice complaints.
“Why is the city giving away precious parking spots to ZipCar and Enterprise, two commercial businesses?” one wrote earlier this year. “Let those companies rent space in garages.”
Levine has been a major supporter of the carshare pilot.
“New York is home to more than a 1.4 million cars, and as anyone who’s ever looked for a parking spot in Manhattan knows all too well, it is a brutal and time-consuming process,” he said.
“The carshare pilot program has already been an incredible success. Every time I walk by one of the reserved spaces, they sit empty, meaning those cars are being used. It’s a big win for those who can’t afford a car, but need access to one from time to time. At a time when congestion in Manhattan is at crisis levels, we need to do everything we can to alleviate that. I’m confident that over time we’ll see fewer cars on our streets as a result of this pilot.”
Readers, what do you think? Have you noticed a carshare pilot on your block? Is carshare a welcome addition to the neighborhood? Is it a solution for the traffic congestion that plagues the Upper West Side?