Friday, November 20, 2009

Car-Sharing and Brookline: a Perfect Match

Wheels When You Want Them. Actually, I think a more accurate slogan might be, wheels when you need them. It's a subtle difference, but it gets at the heart of why Zipcar members drive so much less than private auto owners.

3,300 residents of Brookline rely on ZipCars. Why is there a demand for car sharing in Brookline? In short, our residential density and proximity to business centers make transit, walking and biking viable transportation alternatives. Roughly one half of our resident work force gets to work without driving. More than half of the non-work travel is accomplished without a car as well. As a result, many only need to use a car occasionally. Using a shared car for that trip makes perfect sense. Car sharing enables car shedding.

For many the option to give up one or more of their vehicles has meant the difference between being able to live in Brookline or being forced to leave. Freeing themselves from the heavy burdens of car ownership, car share users save both time and money that can be better spent locally. Significantly, users have more resources to put towards housing costs. CSO’s are particularly beneficial to residents of North Brookline, where off-street parking is at a premium and efforts to accommodate private vehicle ownership has had serious negative consequences. We’ve struggled with the paving over of our lawns and green spaces, seen the negative consequences to new housing design, incurred significant additional costs for parking and dealt with severe traffic impacts. Car sharing helps address all of these concerns, by reducing both parking demand and vehicle traffic.

How does car sharing reduce vehicle traffic? Not having that private vehicle in the driveway increases an individual’s use of transit, walking and biking. If we must plan ahead and pay for each car trip we take, we will only use a car when it is the best choice, rather than the convenient or habitual choice. Choosing instead to walk, bike or take transit when we can. They are easier. We don't have to reserve in advance, we don't have to pay by the hour and we don't have to be back on time. Zipcar membership promotes "conscious transportation consumption". These effects have been repeatedly documented in many cities with car sharing. Less traffic has the synergistic effect of making it more pleasant to walk and bike for everyone.

Concerns have been raised about the potential for oppressive impacts from CSO vehicles. Zipcar has been in Brookline since 2001. Today there are 78 cars at 34 sites. 59 of these vehicles have been located in residential zones without any problems or complaints. This track record gives us plenty of evidence showing how comfortably CSO’s can be accommodated throughout town. Concerns about heavy site-specific traffic from CSO vehicles are unfounded. In fact, Brookline’s zipcars are used an average of 1.5 times per day, which is analogous to a privately owned vehicle. Worries about displacing private parking seem counter-intuitive. Car-sharing reduces parking demand, with each CSO vehicle accommodating more than 40 members, many of whom got rid of or avoided acquiring a personal vehicle. As for the rowdy zipsters in the night, irresponsible zipcar members will not be members for long. ZipCar is careful to ensure its drivers are safe and responsible and you must be 21 to join. The average age of Brookline’s zipcar users is 38.

Allowing CSO’s in Brookline brings many benefits to our neighborhoods, the environment, our economy and lifestyle. Article 13 has been crafted to legalize existing CSO locations and brings oversight and input to the process of creating new sites. Car sharing reduces reliance on automobiles while retaining mobility, making it an important piece of a more sustainable transportation future for Brookline. Zipcar membership allows us to jettison our privately owned automobile. Many of us living in Brookline are lucky enough to not really need a car f

No comments: