City Carshare and the city of Berkeley have decided to launch a scaled-down car sharing program in November rather than waiting for UC Berkeley to approve additional funding for the project.
The car sharing program, which allows members to use a car when necessary without the hassles of ownership, was originally to begin with 10 cars but organizers reduced that number to five because UC Berkeley is still studying the possibility of subsidizing the program.
Similar programs have been successful in San Francisco, Portland, Ore. And Seattle, Wash. Palo Alto recently began a car sharing program and Oakland is scheduled to launch a fleet of 10 cars in November.
City Carshare organizers originally asked Berkeley for $115,000 to start the program. But because university students, professors and staff are expected to be heavy users of the service, the city agreed to fund $54,500 and suggested City Carshare go to the university for the additional funding, according to City Carshare Executive Director
The city approved the $54,500 in June when it adopted its two-year budget.
According to City Carshare Deputy Director Kate White, the additional funding would allow the program to start with 10 brand new, green and gray Volkswagen Beetles instead of five.
Some city officials are concerned the university will take advantage of the city by not putting up half of the funding.
“The entire community should demand that the university fund its fair share of the car-sharing program,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “That and providing free public transportation passes for all of their employees would be the absolute minimum such a large employer could do to be responsible.”
Worthington said he remains hopeful the UC Transportation Department will decide to help subsidize the program.
UC transportation planner Kira Stoll said the university received the funding request after the annual budget had been approved. She said they are currently conducting a feasibility study to see if the additional funding is available.
“We think the car sharing program is an excellent component to a complete alternative transportation program,” Stoll said, “and we hope to have an answer back to the City Carshare people in September.”
Mayor Shirley Dean said she is encouraging the university to provide the extra dollars. “This will be an excellent program for students and others associated with the university,” she said. “I think It makes an enormous amount of sense for the city and the university.”
Persons over 25 years old interested in joining City Carshare can put down a $300 refundable deposit, and for an administrative fee of $10 per month, they will be able to use one of the new cars at a rate of $2.50 per hour and 45 cents per mile. The cars will be kept at garages near the UC Berkeley campus and will available 24 hours a day.
According to Matthew Nicholes, a Berkeley resident who is on the City Carshare Board of Directors, the company’s insurance carrier requires all drivers to be age 25 or older. Nicholes said the nonprofit is researching the possibility of lowering the age requirement.
Members can reserve cars online or by telephone and then show up at the designated garage with a “smart key” that operates the vehicle and keeps track of time used and distances traveled.
According to White, two cars will be available at the new Gaia Building where developer Patrick Kennedy has donated parking spaces and another three cars are expected to be available at the city parking lot on Berkeley Way near Shattuck Avenue.
White said the program would ideally attract car owners who drive less than 10,000 miles a year, although she said many of the initial members in San Francisco joined because they couldn’t afford a car. “Carshare can also be a form of preventive car ownership,” she said.
The program in San Francisco started in February with 12 new Volkswagen Beetles that were stored in four garages in different parts of town. White said the program has been so popular there are now 25 cars and 700 members.
White said the immediate goal of the program is to reduce the demand on parking in urban areas. Long-term goals include energy conservation and the creation of more housing at less cost. Most urban areas have ordinances requiring a set number of parking spaces be developed for each residential unit.
If the car-sharing program is successful, the mandatory number of parking spaces could be reduced thereby freeing up space for residential development.
Nicholes said he expects to program to do well in Berkeley. He said the city is densely populated and that on average Berkeley households have fewer cars than elsewhere in the Bay Area.
“All these conditions and the level of environmental consciousness in Berkeley make me believe the program is going to do really well here.”
For more information about City Carshare call (415) 995-8588 or visit its Web site at www.sfcarshare.org