The best known car-sharing brand (Zipcar) began as a Cambridge startup in 2000. Since then the availability of car-sharing has been shown to reduce both automobile ownership and driving by giving members access to a fleet of cars for short term rentals while not encouraging driving when other modes are readily available. However our zoning ordinance limits where car-sharing vehicles may be parked between uses to designated spots in commercial lots and garages. New residential developments have been required to include car-sharing spots in their garages as part of traffic demand management measures, but technically the spots are in violation of the code. Dedicated car-sharing spots are not allowed to replace public street parking spots. West Cambridge has a paucity of car-sharing spots because it is primarily residential, so residents of the area have less incentive to use car-sharing. West Cambridge has the city’s highest rate of car ownership and residents tend to drive more.
Now the Council has the chance to approve a petition for a zoning provision to allow car-sharing in residential lots and garages subject to the approval of all owners and with prior notice to nearby neighbors. Car-sharing spaces may not be created on single family properties, and no more than 25% of a property’s spaces may be so designated without a special permit. There will be a car-sharing registry to track locations of the spots. Here is the text of the proposed ordinance.
I support these changes, as I believe it will spur more households to reduce the number of cars owned. Some people voiced concerns that it represents an incursion of commercialization into residential areas but I think the parking ordinance rightly serves to regulate parking, not ownership of the vehicles. Passing the ordinance will also make the existing car-sharing spaces in some of the newer residential garages legal.
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA