Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Zipcar Coming to an Alley Near You

Last night, Zipcar won a small but meaningful victory for car-sharing in D.C. when the Zoning Commission formalized a set of regulations to allow car-sharing spaces throughout the District. The new zoning definitions and requirements allow Zipcar and other car-sharing services to operate in places most other commercial enterprises cannot. In short, the move means the company, which DDOT Director Gabe Klein holds dear to his heart as a former Zipcar exec, can continue to provide car-sharing vehicles, already in residential neighborhoods, and expand their presence throughout the District.

As DDOT continues to invest time and money into providing safe alternative forms of transportation, such as Smartbike, street cars and contra bike lanes, the agency works with other DC authorities to revamp old regulations to make room for smarter transportation policies. The rules demonstrate a willingness by various District agencies to provide alternative forms of transportation for DC residents. Karyn LeBlanc, DDOT Spokesperson, told DCMud, "DDOT supports car-sharing programs as a means to encourage reduction of congestion, and environmentally friendly transportation alternative and as one solution to limited parking resources throughout the city."

Parking is a premium in the City and many of the limitations to car-sharing programs under the new rules are related to space requirements. In the District, zoning requirements stipulate how many parking spaces must be provided based on the building size and use. The new regulations for car-sharing state that a mixed-use site (i.e. condo with ground floor retail a la the Ellington) or a specially zoned site can include Zipcars as long as the cars do not take up any of the required spaces for a building of the size. So if you need 20 spaces and you have 22, then those 2 extra spaces can be used for car-sharing.

Additionally, the regulations limit some residential buildings to two car-sharing spaces on a single lot, which also cannot be the required parking for the lot. In other residential areas the same rules apply except that additional cars can be on the site if they are within or under a principal structure (i.e. apartment building, condo, parking garage) and are, again, not the required parking spaces for that location. Basically, if you want Zipcars in your condo, check on the number of spaces provided versus the number required, if there are extra, then you can have Zipcars; otherwise, you're out of luck.

At the hearing Zipcar Marketing Manager for DC, Anthony Marinos testified, "We consider ourselves a vital part of the DC community. Having vehicles placed in residential areas and areas of convenience to our members and potential members is something we feel very strongly about."


Anonymous said...

I think this is great and I am a member of zipcar. The only concern I have is zipcar is a monopoly. After buying out flexcar and as more and more people rely on teh zipcar service- will we see rates escalate? There is no competitor to zipcar...and can one even enter the market? Remains to be seen

Anonymous said...

Hertz also has a car-sharing business (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/hertz-takes-a-zipcar-approach/). The NY Times had an excellent article about car-sharing earlier this year (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/magazine/08Zipcar-t.html).

Anonymous said...

Putting aside the merits, isn't there something a bit dodgy about a former zipcar executive modifying zoning rules to benefit zipcar?

Anonymous said...

@Zipcar exec rewriting zoning laws. They have a phrase that is used to explain situations where former execs make the rules for their field. It's called "governing in the US."

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