City Tweaks Car-Share Parking Locations as Program Spreads Throughout the Neighborhood

By Michael McDowell

Earlier this fall, sharp-eyed West Side Rag reader Brennan Szabo noticed something missing on West 111th Street between Broadway and Riverside. Two parking spaces that had been previously occupied by carshare vehicles—part of an ongoing two-year citywide pilot the NYC Department of Transportation is running with Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare—had been removed. The spaces were there one day and gone the next, according to Szabo, the carshare signs apparently swapped overnight for the original alternate side parking regulation signs.

Carshare is a novel type of shared mobility—like Citi Bike—that many cities are implementing. The programs typically provide designated spaces for vehicles that are available to rent for set limits of time, often by the hour; fuel and insurance are included with a subscription or membership. Carshare programs present an alternative to individual car ownership in cities, and are designed to maximize the efficient use of a limited—and often scarce—resource: public parking on city streets.

What happened to the carshare spaces on 111th Street? According to DOT, in August, two carshare spaces on West 111th between Broadway and Riverside were indeed moved to 115th between Broadway and Riverside, the goal being to more evenly distribute spaces in Morningside Heights and increase access for all residents of the area. The new site had been vetted during the planning process by the community and local elected officials, according to an agency spokesperson.

Several hundred spaces have been designated citywide for the carshare pilot, in both municipal parking garages and on street in select neighborhoods, including the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights.

DOT has a multi-part evaluation plan to assess whether the sites allocated to carshare vehicles are fulfilling the program’s goal to provide new mobility options and shorten the often headache-inducing search for parking in the city; each quarter, carshare companies submit data to DOT showing membership numbers, fleet composition, trip records, and more, according to the agency. The department is conducting parking counts to see whether the presence of carshare vehicles has an impact on parking availability.

DOT is also working with the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, to conduct surveys of New Yorkers both when they join carshare and a year after, to determine whether the availability of carshare changed any car ownership or travel behavior.

The agency plans to publish a one-year and a two-year carshare pilot report, with the first report published by September 2019 and the second report by September 2020. This timeline aims to provide the city with adequate time to assess and summarize the impacts of the carshare pilot, as well as propose any future iteration of the program.

At a transportation town hall held in October, Council Member Mark Levine, who represents sections of the Upper West Side, West Harlem and Washington Heights, stated that according to data he had seen, every carshare is used by as many as 90 families over a 30-day period.

Some locals have contacted us to voice complaints.

“Why is the city giving away precious parking spots to ZipCar and Enterprise, two commercial businesses?” one wrote earlier this year. “Let those companies rent space in garages.”

Levine has been a major supporter of the carshare pilot.

“New York is home to more than a 1.4 million cars, and as anyone who’s ever looked for a parking spot in Manhattan knows all too well, it is a brutal and time-consuming process,” he said.

“The carshare pilot program has already been an incredible success. Every time I walk by one of the reserved spaces, they sit empty, meaning those cars are being used. It’s a big win for those who can’t afford a car, but need access to one from time to time. At a time when congestion in Manhattan is at crisis levels, we need to do everything we can to alleviate that. I’m confident that over time we’ll see fewer cars on our streets as a result of this pilot.”

Readers, what do you think? Have you noticed a carshare pilot on your block? Is carshare a welcome addition to the neighborhood? Is it a solution for the traffic congestion that plagues the Upper West Side?

NEWS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. Alta says:

      “Why is the city giving away precious parking spots to ZipCar and Enterprise, two commercial businesses?” one wrote earlier this year. “Let those companies rent space in garages.”

      The better question is why is the city giving away precious parking spots to individuals to store their cars for free? Let those people rent space in garages. I’d much prefer the space to be used for a car anyone can have access to, which is what Zipcar does.

      • Sid says:

        100% agree.

      • SA_NYC says:

        Hear, hear! I wouldn’t mind seeing the majority of curb spots being for shares.

      • Scott says:

        “The better question is why is the city giving away precious parking spots to individuals to store their cars for free?”

        Maybe you’re not aware of the NYCHA parking system. They basically give away parking spots to residents. (The rate starts at $30 a year, so it’s close to giving it away.) I’ve seen classic muscle cars covered and stored there. Your tax dollar at work!

    2. Scott says:

      “Is it a solution for the traffic congestion that plagues the Upper West Side?”

      No, the solution is to issue parking permits to city residents. That would solve our problems overnight. But Albany won’t do it, because it would help the city and only the city.

      • Erik says:

        This hits the problem on the head. We need neighborhood parking permits – like Chicago and other cities. There would be room for both car share and local car owners to park on the street. This would eliminate commuters driving to the city then getting on the subway to get to work.

    3. Michelle says:

      Carshare designated parking spaces use the commons for the common people. Multiple people are able to use one car, thereby avoiding multiple cars on the street. Great idea and an efficient use of space. I am a Zipcar member and therefore do not need to own my own vehicle.

      We used to live in London where the concept is very popular, and we enjoyed it immensely. In our neighborhood, there was usually a Zipcar on every block, making it easy to reserve a car for a few hours when we needed one.

      • Ladybug says:

        And just what is Enterprise and Zip Car giving the City in return? I suspect nothing. Another giveaway at the expense of NYC residents.

    4. Josh says:

      I welcome this program and am excited for it to come to my block. The city needs to take back control of its streets and make them benefit everyone in the city, not just car owners.

    5. Mark Moore says:

      I can already predict people on this site won’t like it. I’m fine with it if it’s non-profit or the companies pay a substantial rate for the right to reserve public space on City streets.

    6. Mark Moore says:

      It’s only the “solution for traffic congestion” if people who own cars give them up in order to use Zipcar instead. Otherwise it’s just putting more cars on the street.

    7. Bronx Boy says:

      I use both car services, and I like this idea. Prying a car out of a garage is one of the least enjoyable parts of renting and being able to just walk up to the car, get in, adjust the seats and mirrors and be on your way is attractive.

      Zip and Enterprise may be for-profit companies, but the people who use the services are typically neighborhood residents, and they’re our streets too.

    8. Bill Williams says:

      Great idea, let’s give corporations a free ride while making our lives harder. This on top of tearing down the cheap city gargaes on 108 and 107

    9. Mary says:

      Like it or not, cars and the need to have one are a part of life for many city residents. I have lived in the city for decades and have been driving a car out of necessity, for work reasons and the lack of feasible public transportation options, for the past couple of years. As another commentator has suggested, one way to mitigate the issue is to issue parking permits to local residents, as so many other major cities (London, Boston…) do.
      I’m baffled by the hostility to drivers on this site, but I guess it’s just in keeping with the general level of incivility that seems to pervade so many discussions here.

    10. Chris says:

      Carshare is an infinitely better use of curb space than free parking for private car owners. And free is a misnomer, since the user pays nothing but the city gives away one of its most valuable assets. We are long overdue for a reallocation of street space to match current needs: delivery zones, more carshare and bikeshare. Stop giving away public space for private car owners to store their vehicles for free.

    11. Pedestrian says:

      Get rude of the constantly circling Ubers and that would help a lot. And for those who love Fresh Direct, the trucks are every where. Walk to the store for gosh sakes.

    12. David says:

      This may be a useful step towards the introduciton of autonomous vehicles in the near future.

    13. Frank says:

      I remember buying my first car in 79, living on 89th bet Amsterdam and columbus parking was a nightmare then, and looking for parking a a sunday night was a nightmare,driving around a 1/8 of tank of gas and parking blocks away ended up selling and just rented at Rent-a-wreck or worst case, Hertz. I time I visited and rented was in 2008, it was even worst. Now I do ZipCar if I need to. I guess its even worst now that most garages have been torn down for condos. Stay same my UWS friends. I’m now in San Antonio in a nice condo with reserved parking and ample parking for guests.
      I do miss my neighborhood,but but most of what was there when I left in 98 is long gone, though I make sure to visit and walk around to visit friends that remain.
      Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all – wish all the best

    14. MCVB says:

      The DOT is easily bought. How about an entire block (67th Street b/ CPW and Columbus….NYP spots reserved all along the southern side…so that the press who commute from NJ and CT and work for ABC and who haven’t used their cars ever to go out and report, make Enterprise and ZipCar look beneficial to everyone.

    15. sam says:

      The problem is that carshare services and disrupters like Uber and Lyft have both (1) clogged the streets with even more vehicles and (2) lowered mass transit ridership, ultimately impacting MTA revenues. I have lost count of the friends and colleagues who used to rely on the subway and buses to get around, yet have ditched them in favor of Via and Uber rides. Congestion pricing of some sort is necessary.
      But, using city streets as a free parking lot is also a problem. At the very least, free street parking should be limited to local residents (similar to what DC and other cities do).

    16. Jan says:

      I don’t think anybody should have free parking in NYC. I pay to take the subway. Also, I’d prefer having more trees and less cars. There should be no parking on main crosstown and uptown streets so buses can move more easily. I really don’t need the exhaust and honking from the cars. Plus, they don’t get ticketed for idling their engines.

    17. Barbara Buoncristiano says:

      I live almost on the CU campus. Despite the fact that Columbia has a substantial number of residential students & on-campus housing, a greater number commute by car. Parking places have been taken for bocycles. We can scarcely afford to lose more to Zipcar & Enterprise. It may work in otjer.places, but not jere!

      • Mary says:

        I also live right next to Columbia. Is it really the case that most students commute into campus by car? That seems unlikely to me.

    18. Linda Eckard says:

      I am NOT in favor of the car Share program – I spend hours looking for a parking space for my car, and we have already lost many, many spaces to Citi Bikes. Why are rental cars being given preference over us??

      • Arjan says:

        Probably because 1 parking spot for a car share programme benefits multiple people, where a parking spot for a regular car benefits just one…

      • Jay says:

        Because a parking space on a public road isn’t yours. If you want one, there are plenty of parking garages where you can rent one.

    19. Kay McFadden says:

      Sprawling places like Chicago are not good comparisons to New York. You have to look at dense vertical cities like San Francisco and Seattle, which also have neighborhood permit parking. I lived in both places, on blocks with not nearly as many tall buildings as my current home on 103rd Street, and resident permits did nothing to relieve curbside congestion. Demand simply outstrips supply.

      I understand some car owners feel bicycle lanes and car-sharing projects are an impingement on convenience and/or necessity. But this city wasn’t designed for cars; it was designed for modes of transportation that no longer exist. We must keep adapting.

      • Scott says:

        I have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Seattle has had what it calls RPZs (residential parking zones) since 1979. And they’re expanding the program, not shrinking it. Sounds like a huge failure, huh?

        As for SF, they’re a failed city, so whatever they do, we should probably do the opposite.

        It seems the arguments against residential permits are always the same:

        “They shouldn’t be charging $60 a year, they should be charging $5,000 a year”

        “No residents should be prioritized, everyone is equal”

        “All cars should be banned, everyone should ride the subway or rent a Citi bike”

        The authoritarian agenda is obvious.

    20. Scooterbeans says:

      So let me understand….our Coucilman wants to give private corporations free reserved parking so they can save money on garages and make more profit?.
      I don’t own a car and actually have a Zipcar membership but I don’t get taking something away from taxpayers and handing it to a profitable corporation especially when there are plenty of garages to park in? Somethings fishy