If you are a car owner tired of orbiting your home and workplace looking for parking, only to return and find a parking ticket that seems to mock you as it flaps in the wind, there may be another option.
The City Council unanimously approved $55,000 as seed money for the City CarShare program, which will allow members to access an automobile to run errands, pick up groceries or take trips out of town without the economic burden and hassles of car ownership.
Councilmember Linda Maio said she has been a strong advocate of CarShare and is looking forward to seeing how the program will fair in Berkeley.
“If we really want to cut down on the number of cars on our streets, this is a great way to do it,” she said.
For a $300 deposit and a $10 monthly fee, members can have access to a new, lime green Volkswagen Beetle. For each trip, members will also be charged $2.50 per hour and 45 cents for each mile.
The program starts with two cars in Berkeley, but CarShare’s East Bay Director Daryl Norcott said the goal is to have five cars available within months. Initially one car will be kept at the Oxford-Kittridge parking lot and the other at the Berkeley Way lot between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street. Both lots are city owned. CarShare members also have access to 35 cars in the San Francisco program and two in Oakland’s program.
According to Norcott, CarShare’s goal is to grow the program to include parking lots south of campus and in the Elmwood Neighborhood. He said there are already 30 members in Berkeley’s program.
“We want to make this program attractive to households who already have one car and don’t want to buy another, and to people who can afford a car but don’t want the hassles of ownership,” he said. “We want to make CarShare as attractive and feasible as possible to people in the low- to moderate-income ranges.”
Cory Levenberg, who owns 42, INC., a information systems consulting business with eight employees, uses CarShare as company transportation.
“This program has been economically very valuable,” said Levenberg who renounced personal car ownership in 1999. “Before this we primarily used BART and cabs.”
Levenberg, who’s office is in the heart of downtown Berkeley, said parking is a challenge here and nearly impossible in San Francisco where his employees often travel for work.
“Now we just hop on downtown BART and then pick up a car in the city,” he said.
Deputy City Manager Phil Kamlarz said the city manager has identified transportation, traffic and parking issues as a priority for the upcoming year.
“We are hopeful that as CarShare becomes more popular, it will reduce the need for car ownership, which will reduce traffic,” Kamlarz said.
City CarShare’s Executive Director Elizabeth Sullivan said the organization is patterned after Mobility Car Sharing, a Swiss company that was launched in Zurich several years ago.
“They now have 40,000 members in the entire country, which has about the same population as the Bay Area,” she said. “With those kind of numbers, you can really see how parking and traffic problems can be reduced.”
Sullivan said Mobility Car Sharing is intimately intertwined with the National Rail System in Switzerland and that the availability of cars at or near rail stations has helped to make the program successful.
“It’s very important for us to be similarly linked with Bay Area public transportation,” she said. “Currently we are working with BART to make cars available at the Rockridge Station parking lot.”
For more information about City CarShare call 510-352-0323 or visit their Web site at www.sfcarshare.org.