- Our car-sharing king. (Photo: John Hendel)
Zipcar lost most of its public curbside parking spaces over the course of the weekend. As I've reported about multiple times in the past, the District has 86 prime parking spaces that it can give or rent out to anyone that needs them. For years, Zipcar enjoyed them for free as former District Department of Transportation director Gabe Klein, a former Zipcar executive, encouraged a culture of car-sharing in Washington, D.C. Zipcar has been the only car-sharing company to operate in the District since 2007 when it absorbed Flexcar, but competition looks to be on the way.
DDOT began charging a small sum for the 80+ spaces last year and this past summer, opened a bid for the spaces among multiple companies, with the price for each space set at the thousands. Zipcar didn't want to enter a bidding war and was left with — the last I had heard — about a dozen spaces. Zipcar quickly rushed to reassure customers that this only would affect around 10% of its D.C. fleet and that it was working to replace the spaces with private alternatives. Neither Zipcar nor DDOT gave a sense of specifically which new car-sharing companies, if any, won the remaining public parking spots, but I can't imagine the new owners will remain a mystery for long. I have an ongoing request with DDOT for more information and have reached out to a few other relevant car-sharing companies to see if they've made moves toward the District.
Zipcar D.C.'s general manager, Ellice Perez, updated local Zipsters, in personalized e-mails alerting members with the headline "Some Zipcars in DC are moving," this past Friday — and confirmed that Zipcar lost its spaces on October 1:
As you've probably heard by now, many of our on-street locations in DC will no longer exist as of October 1. Rest assured that we've worked hard to move each of these vehicles into nearby locations so that your favorite Zipcar is still there when you want it.
If you've already made a reservation occurring after October 1 for an on-street car, expect to receive an email with updated location and vehicle information.
Perez declined to comment on how the replacement process has gone and instead referred me to national Zipcar spokesperson Colleen McCormick. McCormick confirms that Zipcar is retaining 14 of the District's parking spaces and tells me that our local Zipcar folks "have moved the additional cars to nearby locations."
Despite the recent bidding friction with the District, it sounds like Zipcar will be doing just fine. The world's biggest car-sharing company now partners with multiple universities in the area to recruit young college-age Zipsters and tapped close to 4,000 new D.C. members through a LivingSocial deal not long ago.
But who owns the new spaces? These few public parking spots are supremely relevant to how the culture of car-sharing has and is unfolding here in the nation's capital.