The city’s fairly modest “carpooling” experiment is expanding across the city.

Following a three-year pilot project in 14 neighborhoods, the Department of Transportation last month laid out the ground rules for a permanent program allowing rental car companies to place vehicles on the street for rental on time – an effort to reduce the ownership and use of private cars. cars unless absolutely necessary.

The pilot offered encouraging news on so-called carpooling to reduce vehicle miles travelled, buying new cars and selling existing cars. According to an analysis by the Center for Transportation Sustainability Research at the University of California, Berkeley, VMTs have fallen 38.7 million miles per year – a drop of less than 1% from the tens of billions of VMTs in the town every year, but definitely a start.

Each rideshare member reported driving approximately 300 miles less while participating in the program. But only 0.61% of car-sharing members said they had sold a car as a result of joining (about 783 cars). And a small number of attendees said they didn’t buy a car because of the existence of carpooling (which, according to Berkeley long hair estimates, prevented an additional 9,399 cars from being rolled out).

The numbers are low, but there is reason to be optimistic.

“This relatively small personal vehicle loss effect is primarily due to already low vehicle ownership rates in New York City and among the general carsharing population,” the researchers wrote. “We found that less than 20% of members surveyed currently own a personal vehicle. So, New York City car-sharing members don’t have many personal vehicles to begin with that might be left behind due to car-sharing.

Berkeley analysts used pre-pandemic vehicle mileage and usage data provided by car-sharing companies, as well as their own three-part user survey: An early survey asked New Yorkers who were already car-sharing members, a second survey was conducted quarterly with new car-sharing members, and a final survey assessed the impact of car-sharing on members’ travel behavior and attitude towards car sharing. car sharing.

“Carpooling is another useful way to reduce total car use and ownership and make more space available on the street,” said Felicia Park-Rogers, director of regional infrastructure projects for the campaign. tri-state transportation and the co-author of a 2019 study on the pilot. “It’s better to have a car accessible to several users per week and in use. It is also useful to make available something that is economically prohibitive, but sometimes necessary, for low-income people. Carpooling can do that.

The car-sharing rules that the city has developed place most of the responsibility for the system on the car-sharing companies themselves. Companies that want dedicated parking spaces are responsible for presenting the locations to DOT, who will then assess them. Car-sharing companies must also paint their own floor markings to delineate parking spaces that can only be used for shared cars. Both policies were informed by the findings in the city’s final report on the car-sharing pilot project.

The DOT said the transfer of responsibility to car-sharing companies for finding parking spaces is the biggest change from the three-year pilot project — a change the DOT changed because it “allows a city-wide program grow without creating undue pressure on DOT from a staffing perspective; and it allows carsharing companies to proactively identify locations that make the most sense for their business. »

The DOT pilot report noted that in the first year of the pilot, more than 20% of rideshare rides ended with users finding parking spaces blocked when they tried to drive their car back onto tracks. street parking spaces. To address this issue, the DOT allowed car-sharing companies to paint on-street parking spaces in the second year of the pilot, a change that helped greatly, as “compliance improved significantly after DOT authorized car-sharing companies to install and maintain pavement markings at their sites,” with 10% or fewer trips ending in blocked parking spots in every neighborhood in the city. pilot project.

The DOT has not indicated how many on-street parking spaces it is prepared to make available to car-sharing companies in the future. When the city declared the program a success last year, it pledged more than 230 on-street parking spaces and 55 municipal parking spaces that were turned into dedicated car-sharing spaces during the limited pilot. The agency is also offering businesses 10% or 10 total parking spaces in 30 select municipal parking lots, whichever is less. Car-sharing companies will be entitled to parking spaces for one year at a time.

Like Citi Bike, which reimburses the New York for the parking spaces that the self-service bike docks replace, companies that want dedicated spaces will have to pay $485 for two spaces on the street or whatever the annual rate on one. eligible municipal parking, a price that ranges from $2,400 per year to $11,500 per year, a discount from what members of the public pay for spots.

Map: DOT
Map: DOT

The city also requires any business that participates in the carpool program to place at least 20% of its dedicated parking spaces in neighborhoods identified in the street master plan as historically underserved — a requirement that should expand the reach of carpooling. program, which was clustered in northwest Brooklyn and northern Manhattan, and disconnected neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx during the pilot. The new capital requirement will require dedicated parking spaces in essentially what the DOT calls Tier 1 priority investment areas: most of the Bronx, large swaths of central Brooklyn, or central and southeast Queens.

The equity investment requirements will seek to build on pilot data showing more low-income and black and Latino New Yorkers signed up for carsharing as the pilot continued. The TSRC found that respondents with household incomes below $50,000 increased from 17% in 2018 in the initial survey before carsharing began to 24% in the third survey. Additionally, the number of black respondents increased from 8.5% to 12.9% and the number of Latino respondents from 8.2% to 16.8% between the first and third surveys. (Rates for renting a car by the hour differ by company; Zipcar offered a $9 monthly “subscription” that allowed drivers to rent a Honda Civic for about $12 an hour or $100 for the day with gas included.)

The DOT also declined to answer a series of questions on which companies have so far asked to be part of the permanent program, how the program would be measured as a success or failure, whether it would release a map of carpool parking in the future or how many street parking spaces it will make available in the program, with a spokesperson saying it will figure out how to make data from the program available in the future.

“DOT will collect data on system usage and is evaluating how best to make this information publicly available,” DOT spokesman Tomas Garita said.

It’s unclear how many companies will participate in the permanent program now that applications to participate are open, or what the total size of the permanent program will be. When the pilot began, Zipcar, Enterprise and Car2Go all participated, with a total of 2,526 carsharing vehicles available between October 2018 and September 2019. But Car2Go ceased operations during the pilot project, and Enterprise has suspended car-sharing operations indefinitely during the pandemic. Zipcar released a statement celebrate the success of the pilot program in April 2021, but the company did not respond to Streetsblog when asked if it would return to the city for the permanent program. Company carpooling only lists three locations in the United States where it participates in car sharing, and the last time we checked, Grinnell College, the University of Washington and Princeton University are far from New York.