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Car Sharing Program Could be Coming to Alexandria

The Alexandria Transportation Commission was briefed on the proposed program Wednesday night.

Alexandria is one step closer to having its own car sharing program following a generally favorable reception from the city Transportation Commission Wednesday night.

The program, Careshare Alexandria!, would initially provide parking spaces in Old Town Alexandria and Carlyle, Faye Dastgheib, a principal city planner, told the commission. “Car sharing, as we all know, is a cheap, green and easy alternative,” she said.

The only current on-street spaces reserved for car sharing in the city are near the Braddock Road Metro station, but that was intended to be a temporary fix, Dastgheib said.

Car sharing programs allow members to reserve a car for hourly use. Individuals can become members of a car sharing service by paying a flat annual fee. Members can reserve a car anytime, via Internet or phone.

Depending on the car share program, members may be required to pay a nominal monthly membership fee as well as hourly or per-mile charges based on use. Rates generally cover gas, insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance, according to the city.

Carshare Alexandria! would also reimburse residents for their first year of membership in a car share program. A survey of a pilot program, which was conducted of new members nine months after participating in the program in April 2012, indicated that since participating in the program, the car ownership rate among participants decreased by 18 percent, according to city documents.

Additionally, according to the survey, 7 percent of participants in the program are considering donating or selling their vehicle.

The recommended annual fee per space on Old Town would be $2,300 based on 2011 revenue figures and $1,500 for Carlyle. No more than two spaces per block would be able to be reserved for car share spaces, and leases may be granted for two years at a time only, Dastgheib said. Also, the fees should generate the same revenue over time that a metered space in the same location would generate.

The city attorney's office reviewed the policy and found no legal impediments to reserving spaces for a car sharing program, given that the vendor is selected through a competitive process, Dastgheib noted.

“It really does change people's behavior,” said Sandra Marks, division chief for transportation planning. “So it's really one tool we have in our toolbox.”

Commission member John Komoroske threw his support behind the proposal. “It's a wonderful idea, where we're more urban than rural,” he said.

Commission member Josh Sawislak asked whether city staff had any information as to whether car sharing reduces trips in single-occupancy vehicles. “I'd be interested to see the data on that,” he said.

Marks said even if the trips are single-occupancy, the expected number of miles driven should be fewer.

From a revenue perspective, Sawislak said, the city could actually lose money because there would be fewer cars to tax, making car sharing a true investment for the city.

Commission member Donna Fossum encouraged staff to look into collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions to coordinate car sharing use. The matter will go before Alexandria City Council at its Jan. 8 meeting.

The commission also selected a new chairperson, as chairman Kevin Posey has reached the end of his two-year term. The commission selected current vice-chairwoman Jennifer Mitchell.

Jonathan Krall December 06, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The value in car-sharing is that it makes cars available very conveniently, thereby making the decision to go car-free easier for people who are frightened to try it. People I know who are car-free usually have zipcar or other carshare memberships. They don't necessarily use them a lot, but it is very reassuring that there is a car to be had on short notice if needed (imagine trying to rent a car in the middle of the night, when a family member calls with an emergency). The benefits to the city of reduced car ownership include reduced demand for local parking. One zip-car (and its parking space) enables more than one person to go car free, so the number of open parking places is increased, rather than decreased. By supporting car-sharing, Alexandria is staving off the day when there is so much demand for on-street parking that high prices will need to be charged for it in order to free up space for visitors.
Lee Hernly December 06, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thank you Justin for clearing that up. The article made it seem as if the City was delving into its own car sharing operation.
Yong December 07, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Agreed - thanks Justin and I appreciate everyone's comments.
Terri Hauser December 08, 2012 at 04:35 AM
How about let's not replace public parking places with car-sharing places. It's almost impossible to go out to eat or shop in Arlington because they have sytematically eliminated almost all parking. Just saying.
Jonathan Krall December 08, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Please note that one zip-car (and its parking space) enables more than one person to go car free, so the number of open parking places is increased rather than decreased.

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