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ZipCar Sharing in SF

Car-sharing represents a model for transportation that overlaps both the private and public spheres. Taking advantage of the "access by proximity" available in urban settings, car-sharing makes it possible to reconceptualize personal vehicles as a community good. As WorldChanging reader Mars Saxman said awhile back about a car-sharing scenario, "the point is to think about [shared] cars as *part of* the (public) transportation system, instead of as an *alternative to* the (public transportation) system."

The largest of the US car-sharing services, ZipCar, is currently only available to east of the Mississippi locations such as NYC, Boston, Chicago, and DC. Despite this relatively limited availability, ZipCar claims over 40,000 of the nearly 77,000 car sharing participants in the US. Expect that number to climb: ZipCar has just announced that it will soon be available in San Francisco, and later on in Portland and Seattle.

Not that these cities are devoid of car-sharing services now. San Francisco (and some regional neighbors) is currently served by City CarShare, while Portland and Seattle are both homes to Flexcar. The CarSharing Network has more details on where shared car services are now available.

(Via Green Car Congress)

Comments (7)


We have something cheaper then that around here its called rent a wreck... works great for those few times you need an odd car/truck for a few days.

Ted Wolf:

My question about ZipCar is why a "national" car-sharing service (obviously something they tout as a selling point in securing their capital to expand) should be preferable to a local or regional company? Flexcar, which serves Portland, Seattle and several other markets, is regionally based, locally managed, and a fantastic local corporate citizen. I certainly would not give up my Flexcar membership just because ZipCar was "bigger" and "national."

Regardless, it's great to see this marketplace developing.

Ted, the value of a national car-sharing service is that, if you travel frequently from one city with that service to another (e.g., if you regularly go between New York and DC, or -- soon -- between SF and Seattle), you have access to shared cars in the new location without having to find a new service and pay a new fee.


The private car as a transportation system is so awful that almost anything we can come up with would be better. The one I favor is an uber-carshare in which I would have a mobile phone that would conjure up for me at any time and in any place any vehicle I wanted, to be driven by me or by others, and which I would be able to leave anywhere, any time. A student of mine modelled this for our town and came up with huge savings of money, space, fuel and most of all, time spent on transport by individuals, since, for example, grandma would not be using up her day ferrying the little kids this way and that.

Chris Page:

Not to be a wet blanket, but is at least one potential unintended consequence to car-sharing. A study in SF before & after the launch of CarShare showed that total VMT (vehicle miles traveled) may actually have INCREASED as a result of the car-sharing program.

The reason? Non-car owners were joining the service, in greater numbers than current car owners were abandoning their private cars in favor of car-sharing. The program (in SF at least) was increasing car-mobility for people who were substituting some of their travel via foot/subway/bike with carshare.

Not a conclusive study, not true for all programs in all areas.... but food for thought. carsharing may not be the silver bullet we would hope for...


Wintermane's "Rentawreck" comment reminded me of another use for vehicle sharing: large-vehicle sharing. Many people still feel the need for their own passenger vehicle - but they buy a large gas hog because "once in a while" they might need to move furniture, take 8 kids to a ball game, etc. A "ZipTruck" service might encourage folks to drive small, fuel-efficient cars for everyday needs, relying on the service for those rare occasions.



BINGO! That's it exactly. I think an unbelievably large number of Southerners fall into that catagory. I myself did for a while as well. One of the even more alarming trends that I have noticed lately is two car households with a single person. Honda/Tundra is a popular combo or Explorer/F-150, etc. I suppose it is better that they drive the more economical one for the long hauls with low cargo, but the cost is boggling to me. Especially when you consider that the operating cost (fuel/maintenance/insurance/interest/tax) of one vehicle is approximately the down payment on a single family home.


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