The car sharing conversation

zipcar portlandIt sounds like Albany common councilwoman Leah Golby is trying to push things forward on car sharing. From an email she sent out on Friday (links added):

If you aren't sure what car sharing is -- the best way to describe it is: short-term car rental. If you've traveled to larger cities, you've likely seen ZipCar -- that's the large for-profit car sharing company. Car sharing is access to a car without the hassles of car ownership. Car sharing helps to reduce gas emissions, promotes use of public transit and can save you $ by (for example) down-sizing from a two-car household to a 1-car household. ...
I happen to be more in favor of locally-controlled non-profit car sharing for the reasons that an Austin group described on the attached.
Momentum for any car sharing company would need to work collaboratively with all of the colleges/ universities leaders from our neighborhoods with parking issues (Center Square/ Hudson Park and Pine Hills), the city's Planning Department and CDTA/ CDTC.

Golby is hoping to prompt discussion via a Twitter hashtag: #ImagineAlbanyCarShare.

Of course, something like this wouldn't have to be limited just to Albany -- there are probably a handful of neighborhoods/areas/centers in the Capital Region that might benefit from car sharing.

Updated July 29, 2010 to include link to the pdf.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Report: car sharing coming to the Capital Region. Sort of.
+ Assembly passes Albany residential parking permits bill
+ From 2008: Not-yet-councilwoman Leah Golby talked about living in the Capital Region without a car

photo: Flickr user Jason Rodriguez


Heaven forbid a town with no real industry outside of a blood sucking state government have a *shudder* "for profit" local company institute car sharing...

You'd think someone whose salary is dependent on the profits of others would be more business friendly, but this is new york state, and you'd be dead wrong

car sharing is AWESOME. i loved it when i lived in seattle. mainly i took public transportation - but anytime i wanted a car to drive to target or to west seattle or to go out to a friend's party maybe when the bus would not be running late at night i would just rent a flexcar. flexcar was taken over by zipcar after i left seattle - and seattle also has light rail now which it didn't when i lived there (i left 10.31.07). it was wonderful, easy, and they paid for the gas and covered insurance (though if in an accident you'd have to pay the deductible). every car had it's dedicated space to return to when you were done. i was always amazed at how clean the cars were and how respectful all of the users were. it was great! they even had mini coopers! car sharing in the capital district would be so wonderful - i support it 100% even though i am unable to drive anymore (due to disability). it is awesome for those who know how to drive, but don't want the financial burden of owning a car.

Would it matter if it's non-profit or "for profit" if it's local? Either way, any profit stays local, and the people running it would know the intricacies of the city, and therefore where best to put the cars, right?

Most car sharing companies are not local and for profit. The upstart costs of car sharing are quite expensive (cars, insurance, technology in the cars for automatic booking and billing, parking, etc).

Most local companies are non-profit because they can receive grant funds due to their non-profit status. Their is debate whether car sharing functions better under the non-profit versus the for profit model. I'm not going to fully engage that debate but there are advantages and disadvantages in both models.

However, what is happening in Albany is neither the for-profit model of car sharing or the non-profit model.

The growing popularity of car sharing has caught the attention of major car rental companies such as Enterprise and Hertz. Hertz will be launching a car sharing program here in Albany. They are in many other cities and recently placed cars at SUNY Binghamton.

The advantage of the car rental market entering car sharing is that they can be up and running a program very quickly. They also have a large number of resources in addition to car sharing that for-profit car sharing companies like ZipCar and non-profits certainty do not have.

I'm happy to see car sharing coming to the Capital Region. I would have loved to see more local control and a local non-profit but it is a difficult business to enter.

One model to consider is the partnership forged with Hertz and Hoboken, NJ. Ideally this is a model that could work in Albany. (

Interesting idea, kudos to Leah for raising the issue. I too would prefer a local firm get this going so their capital stays in our capital ;) But, better to have a big corporate short-term renter than no one.

Of course the best option would be more bikes, but, this iwould be a start in the right direction.

Thanks AOA for going back to the car sharing conversation we started 2 years ago - how time flies!

I think Hertz car sharing at UAlbany is a good start. I'm curious to learn how it's being marketed to students and their families. The UAlbany website's "Parking and Mass Transit Services" page has clearly-labeled information about riding CDTA, and registering vehicles so you can park in campus lots, but there is no clearly-labeled link to the Hertz Connect program on that page. I see something titled, "Sustainable Transportation Growing at UAlbany," with a link to an article that mentions the program - here:

Perhaps Hertz Connect is doing a mailing and/ or email campaign to students. Does anyone know how the program is being marketed?

@Lauren - thanks for the link to the Hoboken Corner Cars program. Looks like a good model.

@chris - to echo what Lauren has posted, the locally controlled car sharing companies I've seen have all been non-profit. In upstate New York there's Ithaca CarShare, Buffalo CarShare and CuseCar (in Syracuse).

But what do we have in Albany?

@ Dan - I'm all for more bikes. Especially if we have less cars on the road. A well-executed car sharing program will lead to less cars on our roads, and better air quality. It will also give us more pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. When people give up car ownership, they tend to get more active.

So folks -- what do you think? #ImagineAlbanyCarShare

I think Albany can learn a lot from Montreal.

Montreal is as hilly as Albany, maybe more so, and has much worse traffic - but it also has bikes all over the place. People can ride their own bikes or do short-term rentals from the racks that are pretty common. You swipe a card and take a bike for X amount of time, then just return it to any other rack and swipe the card again. Montreal's weather is far more severe than ours yet they have this system in place. It could work here.

Pittsburgh has zip cars all over the place - it seems popular there.

It would be really nice if they had a car-sharing setup like the one Hoboken NJ is setting up with its "corner cars" - although Hoboken is a lot denser than most of Albany, so it takes fewer cars to get 90% resident coverage in 5-minute walking distance than it would up here. Still, to make these car-shares really appealing, it is important that you not have to get a ride in a friends car, or take a bus, just to get to the car you will be taking.

I sat next to Hertz at UAlbany's Earth Day event in April, and they seemed to get a lot of interest from the students who attended.
I believe UAlbany is working with Hertz to market the program to incoming students during orientations over the summer. They are at least putting information in orientation packets, and also trying to reach parents to let them know that they can send their kids off without a car, many of which sit in the parking lot unused the vast majority of the time, and still have the carshare option.
The program will be open to the public, though it is my understanding that it will not be marketed to the general public.

@Carrie - Thanks for some info on what UAlbany and Hertz have done to promote the car share program. Here in the 10th ward, I'm very interested in students coming to Albany without their cars. Many UAlbany students live in our neighborhood, and permanent residents have a hard time parking during the academic school year because of the huge influx of cars. The combination of the Hertz car sharing program and CDTA's expanded offerings for UAlbany students (students can now ride on all regular route lines for free - ) could have a tremendous positive impact on the quality of life in our neighborhood.

But Leah, despite the commentors questioning your position on not for profit car share, you have not explained your reasoning? Please address these concerns.

@MattW - The email I sent last Friday included a .pdf that spelled out all of the reasons that an Austin organization called Liveable City (here's their website: ) urged the City of Austin to go with a non-profit carsharing company.

Here is a link to that .pdf:

I didn't realize until I clicked the link AOA provided in their post just now, that is was not a link to the pdf I sent, but a link to Austin CarShare (more on them in a minute).

Using the Liveable City resolution as a model, the reasons that I've also preferred the concept of the non-profit carsharing are:

1. Stability and continuity for a successful program in a small metro area.
2. Non-profits are well- positioned to leverage public and private financing sources for a successful program;
3. Non-profit carsharing organization can remain focused beneficial community impact of carsharing instead of the bottom line.
4. Non-profit carsharing organization can provide a lower cost per user to builda larger and more diverse user base.
5. Non-profit carsharing organization keeps money within the local economy and ensures service to as much of the community as possible.

I am not opposed to a for-profit car sharing company, especially if it is local. However, as I stated before, the only locally-controlled car sharing companies I know about are non-profits.

I actually think the Hertz Connect program is promising -- I only wish that they had involved the community before starting the pilot program at SUNY.

Now... back to Austin CarShare... The Liveable City Resolution resulted in Austin starting a non-profit car sharing company called Austin CarShare. I learned this morning when I did a Twitter search that Austin CarShare just folded.

On July 22, they ceased operations.

This piece ( ) offers an interesting perspective on whether Austin CarShare succeeded in meeting its goals. I think that anyone looking at bringing car sharing to their community can learn from what happened in Austin.

In light of this recent news, one might wonder the validity of my points 1 and 3 above -- taken directly from the community movement to create Austin CarShare.

I don't live in Austin. I wasn't involved. But, it is clear to me that the Austin Metro area wasn't big enough for 2 car sharing companies to survive. So, the non-profit venture went out of business --and that might be defined as success.

MattW -- I hope that clears things up a bit.

Editors: We've added the correct link.

I live here but work for a Boston based company and work a lot in DC. We have a corp ZipCar account and it is a huge convenience and saves us and ultimately our customers tons on car rentals fees. our clients are mostly public sector so they are reaping the rewards of their support for these programs, for-profit or not. I havent done the math but car rental fees are probably in line with same-day-loan check cashing joints. Meaning we are getting gouged and car sharing rates and per hr rental options prove that a car shouldn't cost so much.

The next step will be to add car pooling, i live near a CDTA park and ride lot. If they put 10 zip cars in there, that could take 20-30 cars oout of downtown Albany. Of course those same ppl could just hop on the bus... what do i know? I know i like zipcar and they should bring it. it will get younger folks thinking more serious about buying a condo downtown too.

I recently talked to Leah Golby and I wonder if she has any updates on the car share programs?

I seem to recall that they are going to pass the parking pass ordinances and wouldn't that be a good platform to raise the discussion of a successful car share program. ahehm- such as zipccar. Maybe its an opportunity for all aspiring car share folks (zipster or not)
to come out and advocate the importance of how to reduce cars in Center Square.

I have been without a car in the Capital Region since October 2009. Overall, I have loved not having to deal with the expenses of a car and the carbon footprint it creates. However, it can be a huge pain when I need to run errands and can't borrow a friend or family member's car for a few hours.

Car sharing would change my life for the better. I have the money to purchase a vehicle, but I'd honestly rather spend it on other things (like student loans or a vacation).

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