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On-street car sharing is San Francisco’s future

SF Gate by Scott Weiner

December 1, 2014

The Municipal Transportation Agency recently began implementing an on-street car-sharing program to improve access to car sharing in San Francisco. The program has caused some controversy, given the many challenges surrounding parking in our city. However, this program is central to San Francisco’s long-term transportation success. Studies suggest that car sharing will induce some residents to give up their cars, which will reduce competition for parking.

San Francisco’s transportation trajectory — one that is highly reliant on private automobiles — is unsustainable. We’ve grown by 85,000 people since 2003 without making the necessary investments to improve our transit system. We are facing increased congestion, transit crowding and extreme competition for parking. This will only worsen because our population is expected to grow by another 150,000 people by 2040. We cannot sustain another 75,000 or 100,000 cars.

The only way to create a successful transportation future is to give people reliable and accessible alternatives to owning private cars. It’s not about eliminating cars or making it impossible to drive. Many people need to drive. Yet, whether one drives, bikes, walks or uses transit, it’s in all of our interest to have fewer cars on the road. If we take even 5 to 10 percent of the 462,000 registered vehicles in San Francisco off the road — by providing excellent alternatives to driving — we’ll have 23,000 to 46,000 fewer vehicles in our city.

The studies are clear: Car sharing reduces car ownership. Each car-share vehicle is used by numerous people rather than the traditional model of one car serving one person or household. Because one car-share vehicle is accessed by many people, a car share’s parking space is used more efficiently, that is, by dozens of neighbors instead of one or two. Studies show that up to 14 cars are removed from an area for each available car-sharing vehicle. Both parking availability and traffic flow will improve.

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