Cambridge carsharing ordinance

The previously-passed Cambridge carsharing ordinance vote is up for reconsideration at the Monday, January 25, 2016 City Council meeting. I support the carsharing ordinance as written (though it could be even stronger*). Public comment begins at 5:30pm at City Hall.

+ The ordinance allows for the legal expansion of carsharing to less-dense residential areas in Cambridge.
+ Easier access to carsharing vehicles (e.g., Zipcar) leads to more widespread use.
+ Studies have shown that each carshare vehicle contributes to replacing up to 13 privately owned vehicles.
+ Carshare users are likely to rely on walking, biking, and transit for most trips. People are more likely to choose not to own, store, and maintain vehicles, if carshare vehicles are easily and readily accessed.
+ With fewer overall vehicles in the city, and changing habits around vehicle use, there is less demand on traffic and parking.
+ Sharing promotes community.
+ Cambridge is a leader in good sustainable transportation policy, and getting our policies right means other cities and towns may follow suit.

*The ordinance is in some ways written to be rather restrictive, only allowing a low maximum %age of spaces to be used for carsharing, and not allowing carsharing vehicles in single family home driveways—usually the most overbuilt and underutilized areas of asphalt in the city. Additionally (and this is not totally objectionable), prior notification must be sent to all residents within 100 foot of new carsharing spaces. Opposition to the ordinance has revolved around this community notification piece, suggesting that there needs to be extra layers of approval by neighbors/abutters.

The restrictive clauses seem to be the result of theoretical fear of carsharing being a nuisance or dangerous, which is not borne out in any data or even anecdotally. Nevertheless, several comments have been made at city council meetings to this effect. While it’s great that Cambridge in many ways already promotes carsharing, the places that need it most (less dense/more car-oriented residential areas) are the most negatively impacted by these restrictive rules. We should better envelop carsharing into our comprehensive transportation picture, promote it, and push the limits. Carsharing is a crucial part of our transformational mobility paradigm, giving thousands the option to never have to buy a car. Again, we don’t treat normal parking—which is more collectively detrimental than carsharing—with these kinds of restrictions (low maximum %age of driveway area, disallowing on single family lots, and sending notification to neighbors).

In this case, I’m more in the camp of asking for forgiveness instead of permission, because a radical rethink of transportation really can’t keep waiting.

ALSO: newly elected City Councillor Jan Devereux’s blog post on the reconsideration vote.

Cambridge carsharing ordinance