Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

A map of Washington, D.C.'s 86 curbside parking spaces for car-sharing

November 16, 2011 - 02:40 PM
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(Photo: John Hendel)

The District has experienced a complicated relationship with car-sharing in the last six years but has attempted to encourage the practice to reduce congestion and help the environment. Our government's Department of Transportation acquired several dozen curbside parking spaces in late 2005 and 2006 to divvy up among the car-sharing companies of the District. Initially the city divided the 86 spaces free of charge between Zipcar and Flexcar, the only two operating in D.C., and then just Zipcar starting in 2007 when the former acquired the latter. The District allocated the spaces carefully among our eight wards to ensure a balanced car-sharing culture.

So where exactly are these car-sharing spots?

No public map exists, as far as I can tell, but I've found a list of the 86 original spaces in both the bidding documents as well as in documents I've acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. Many of these spots are likely familiar to Zipsters, for whom the spaces once accommodated about 10% of the company's fleet. With the help of my colleague Ryan Kearney, I've created a map showing where each of these parking spaces are. Their locations become more significant this fall because many of these spaces will soon be, if they're not already, actively occupied by two new car-sharing companies — Hertz On Demand and Daimler's Car2Go. DDOT held a bidding war for the spaces in mid-summer, and those two companies won several spaces that are now quite expensive. Zipcar went from having access to 86 spaces to just 14.

Here's where the District located its 86 curbside parking spaces throughout the last several years, mapped and easily visible:

View The 86 car-sharing spaces of DDOT in a larger map

In the map, zoom in and click the markers to see how DDOT identified the spaces' locations in their documents. DDOT labels the general address or intersection of the spaces as well as a nearby landmark, whether that happens to be a fire hydrant, Blockbuster, Metro station, or a McDonald's. Some of these landmarks, I should note, are dated and reflect the time DDOT compiled the list of 86 spaces. One spot refers to nearby Southeastern University, for instance — an institution that today no longer exists. Still, the map gives a good sense of where these spaces have been located and how they're dispersed throughout the District. DDOT typically created the spaces in pairs, as you can see as you zoom through and study the map. The pinpoints are approximate.

The District offered the public spaces free of charge for the first five years, then began charging Zipcar in fall 2010, and then this past summer issued an invitation for bids with the following requirement: "Bidders must bid a minimum of $3,600 per Ward 1 space, $4,800 per Ward 2 space, $4,200 per Ward 3 space, $2,700 per Ward 4 space, $2,400 per Ward 5 space, $3,000 per Ward 6 space, $2,400 per Ward 7 space and $2,400 per Ward 8 space. Bidders do not need to bid an identical price for all spaces." As I discussed in detail recently, the minimum total price for these 80+ spaces ultimately came to just under $300,000, and the spaces officially changed owners on October 1, 2011.  Zipcar was particularly unhappy with the process. "We are not pleased by what we believe are unreasonably high rates," Zipcar D.C. general manager Ellice Perez wrote in her July 21, 2011 letter to the District's contracting officer.

Today DDOT offers 84 of the 86 spaces mapped above, with two spaces removed in the process of dividing the companies' spaces among D.C.'s wards. I don't know which of the two spaces were removed, but I've requested the information from DDOT (and I've heard back — see the update below). I still don't know exactly which of the curbside parking spaces are the 14 Zipcar retained but I have some guesses. Two of the 84 are located in front of Zipcar's headquarters, for instance, and I doubt Car2Go or Hertz would have swooped those up. My sense is that some Zipcar spaces are still located in Tenleytown.

D.C.'s Zipcar membership has grown to around 60,000 over the course of the past decade, yet now these parking spots may kickstart some real car-sharing competition, for better or worse. Keep your eye on these spaces for signs of Hertz and Daimler. I expect we'll be seeing more of them soon. Last evening I strolled over to one of the spaces in Eastern Market and noticed no specific car-sharing company labeled but instead found a yellow pole topped with car decorations. Its sign bore a simple message: "No parking except car-sharing vehicles." But which vehicles and when? We're still waiting.

Update, 11/17, 1:55 p.m.: DDOT informs me that the number of curbside parking spaces dropped from 86 to 84 with the loss of the two spaces at 18th Street and Columbia Road on Adams Mill Road.

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