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City Plans to Give Private Car-Sharing Companies Reserved Street Parking

By Carolina Pichardo | December 12, 2016 3:55pm
 Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Good luck finding a parking spot now.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Transportation are launching a two-year car-sharing pilot program that will give away 300 on-street parking spaces — and another 300 spots in the city's public parking facilities possibly including NYCHA parking — to private car-sharing companies, they revealed Monday. 

The pilot program will launch in April and will be open to all car-sharing programs, including ZipCar, Car2Go, Enterprise Carshare and ReachNow, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told those present at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing Monday morning.

"We believe this program can save money for thousands of New Yorkers who will be able to shed their cars and use a much more affordable car-share vehicle when they need it," Trottenberg said.

Trottenberg said the city will request that companies provide the DOT with information on "curb use, customer satisfaction and mobility." The DOT, she added, will also be reaching out to elected officials, community boards and residents in the coming months to talk more about how this pilot will move forward. The city launched a similar car-share program in 2009 for city workers.  

Councilman Mark Levine, who is pushing a bill to require the DOT to be transparent about how many designated street parking spaces they give away, where they are and how much money the city makes from it, said he hopes the city will be open with its information.

Levine, whose district represents parts of Washington Heights and Harlem, wants to ensure the city gets revenue by forcing the car-sharing programs to pay “rent” for the parking spots they use — and place them in transit-starved areas, like the council is currently demanding from the Citi Bike program, according to Levine's spokesman, Jacob Sporn.

Other council members supporting Levine's bill include Inez Dickens, Corey Johnson, Helen Rosenthal, Rafael Salamanca, Jr., Ydanis Rodriguez, Brad Lander, Costa Constantinides, Barry Grodenchik and Donovan Richards, according to the legislation.

Levine said in a statement that the bill "would enable these services to access even more neighborhoods across the City."

Jacob Sporn, spokesman for Levine, said where “parking sites will be located is at the discretion of the DOT."

Companies like Car2Go and ZipCar currently offer pickup sites across the city, according to their websites.

While ZipCar frequently contracts with parking garages and other lots to keep their vehicles off the street while not in use, the company used street parking spaces during its early years — as does Car2Go, which critics have accused of hogging public parking spots.

"car2go offers you ultimate parking freedom. To end your rental, simply park your car2go on public, non-metered, on-street parking within the New York Home Area. The best part? It costs you nothing," Car2Go writes on its website.

The company urges users to look for "any legal on-street parking spot within the Home Area," "on streets with 4-day-a-week street sweeping," as long as they avoid parking within 12 hours of the scheduled sweeping — and "on streets with 1- or 2-day-a-week street sweeping, as long as they're not parking within 24 hours of scheduled street cleaning.

Representatives for Car2Go didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Lindsay Wester, spokeswoman for ZipCar, wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York, “We have over 2500 cars/parking spaces in NYC among 600 different locations." and added that “public parking partnerships can accelerate our growth and consequently our positive impact on the city.”

Wester said that for every ZipCar they place, it replaces the need for up to 13 personally-owned cars, which for Washington Heights — where police said the scourge of double-parked cars has hit hard this past year — might bring some relief to the streets.

For Washington Heights, where police said the scourge of double-parked cars has hit hard this past year, residents said car sharing might encourage some folks to avoid maintaining a private car.

“It might enable people to ditch their cars, if they're not actually used that often. Whereas people like me will still use them.” said Klara Natalia Granger, of  Washington Heights, who has been struggling for months to get a disability permit from the city.

Granger also said that restricting car-sharing programs to private parking garages can be challenging for people with disabilities, while street parking increases the odds of having a car sharing site nearby.

"if you live in a heavily residential area, so that's helpful too."