Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Zipcar loses more than 80 percent of its D.C. curbside parking spaces

August 12, 2011 - 05:31 PM
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Zipcar may not live here anymore. (Photo: flickr/wonderdawg777)

What's the car-sharing market in the District going to look like for the next year? Very different for Zipcar, we know that much.

The city's department of transportation offers what are now 84 curbside parking spaces to car-sharing companies, which had up until recently been all Zipcar's. The long-established company enjoyed their free use for years and last year began paying $200 a space. It's been the only car-sharing service at all in the District since 2007. In 2011, DDOT announced they wanted to open up the District's car-sharing market by letting companies bid on the parking spaces, with a minimum bidding price of $3,600 per space. Well, bid they did. After interest from Hertz, Daimler, and Enterprise in addition to Zipcar, three of those four companies bid on the District's parking spots, according to DDOT spokesman John Lisle earlier this month. He couldn't tell me more then.

But word is now in — Zipcar went from having all of what were once 86 curbside parking spots to what's looking like 12 of the 84 that exist now, according to Zipcar consultant John Williams. You hear that? 12. Zipcar only received a dozen of the 84 spaces that have been allocated, it seems, with a slight possibility they'll be able to increase the number to 14 due to the District's wishes that all the car-sharing companies operate in all the wards. D.C.'s car-sharing market has just transformed in a dramatic way and more than I ever would have imagined.

Multiple companies apparently bid the same amount for the spaces, Williams told me, and this morning the car-sharing companies literally drew straws at DDOT to determine how the spaces will be divided. Can you imagine the sight? They actually drew straws!

Zipcar is naturally concerned about what such a big reduction means for the District's 55,000 members. Williams had conveyed some of Zipcar's reservations to me about the bidding process before, and he echoed these in our conversation today. He understands that many Zipcar members may be "inconvenienced" by expanding the market in this way. Williams told me that Zipcar will be looking into acquiring additional private parking — commercials spots, spaces in garages, and so on — to continue to serve their local clients. One big Zipcar concern has been that the minimum bidding price was, at thousands of dollars, "above market rate" at times, Williams said. Zipcar doesn't want to raise rates for its customers, and that concern influenced how they approached the bidding and how much the company was willing to pay per space.

My big questions — which companies won how many spaces of the District's remaining 72 curbside parking spaces and what was the final bidding price for these? It's likely two of the three initial car-sharing companies, Hertz, Daimler, and Enterprise, that expressed interest won the lion's share of spaces.

I called and e-mailed DDOT's Lisle earlier this afternoon seeking that additional information and will update you on any news I have on these questions. Hopefully all will be clear by Monday!

"Most if not all of the dust has settled," Williams told me earlier.

Update, Friday, 6:22 p.m.:  I've received some additional information from Williams about what the next steps will be for Zipcar. He tells me that the city's decision shouldn't increase Zipcar's cost structure and that yes, the company believes it can move to other existing, non-city parking options. "The number of cars impacted by the city's decision is less than 10 percent of our fleet," according to Williams.

No word on when the spots will be turned over to the new companies, but Zipcar expects to know within the week.

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