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SF reopens negotiations to expand car sharing

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The City is currently in talks with car-sharing company Car2Go, which has been found to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, according to a recent UC Berkeley study. (Photo courtesy car2go)

San Francisco will consider allowing another car-sharing company to operate on city streets in a bid to alleviate traffic congestion and ease parking for car owners.

The revelation comes following inquiries to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency after the release of a study on Car2Go by Susan Shaheen, researcher and head of the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

That study, released in late July, analyzed Car2Go data of nearly 9,500 customers in five major cities: San Diego, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Calgary and Vancouver. It found one Car2Go vehicle removed between seven to 11 cars off the road, due to the service’s unique focus on one-way trips.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose has since confirmed the agency is now in talks with Car2Go.

In 2013, the SFMTA launched a car-sharing pilot program, but Car2Go and the SFMTA stopped negotiating because the company did not respond with requested details, Rose said.

However, Rose said the SFMTA “recently resumed discussions to learn more about their plans and how much curb space they would need to operate in The City,” adding that talks are in the early stages.

“Car2Go’s ‘one way’ car share model would need an entirely different kind of permit from the one we’ve been testing for the on-street pilot,” Rose later wrote in an email. “They don’t need designated and fixed locations for their cars.”

That unique model needs “further review,” Rose wrote.

Michael Silverman, a spokesperson for Car2Go, confirmed the company has had “some preliminary discussions” with The City.

“We’d love to come to San Francisco, we’d love to come to the Bay Area,” Silverman said.

Pointing to Shaheen’s recent study, he said, “the proof is out there” that the company helps reduce congestion.

Car2Go operates differently than the other car-sharing companies — Getaround, City Carshare and Zipcar — that The City allots 202 parking spaces to under the car-share pilot.

Those companies offer car usage for a monthly fee on a round-trip basis. Drivers pick up the car, make their journey — to get groceries, for instance — and bring the car back to the space it was taken from or another designated spot for the company.

Car2Go, by contrast, allows its cars to be parked anywhere within predetermined zones, and an app guides users to available vehicles. This focus on one-way trips gears Car2Go toward commuters, according to the UC Berkeley study.

Though that research was partially funded by Car2Go, Silverman said the company is among many other funders. It’s also in line with Shaheen’s earlier research, which concluded car sharing reduces vehicle ownership.

That previous study by Shaheen even inspired the SFMTA.

On its website, SFMTA planners wrote the car-sharing pilot program was “motivated and informed by research and analysis of urban car sharing prepared by Susan Shaheen and Elliot Martin of the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center, as well as other researchers.”

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