Dave Reid

Car-sharing in Milwaukee…

By - Nov 3rd, 2010 08:47 pm
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UWM Zipcar

UWM Zipcar

Car-sharing offers people the ability to rent a car or truck, often a hybrid, for a time period of less than a day, and for an affordable amount that includes insurance and fuel. For many people car ownership isn’t required for day-to-day activities, but they maintain ownership in case they need to run an errand, go to a client meeting, or simple go for a drive, but with this luxury comes a high price-tag. AAA estimates the cost of car ownership at $8,487 per year, in 2009, so the ability to scale back on ownership could allow people to receive significant cost savings while maintaining their level of mobility.

In Milwaukee, Zipcar, a car-sharing service out of Boston, has been operating for a couple of years with vehicles available at UWM to students and East Side residents. And recently, the Business Journal reported that Zipcar is bringing this service to a wider portion of Milwaukee by expanding its service to Marquette‘s campus. But despite this expansion the service area is fairly limited within the city.

In its current state, the environmental and cost-saving benefits of the system are limited, but there are ways for the City of Milwaukee to participate that will bring additional benefits to the city. First, Milwaukee could implement a program similar to Portland, OR where the city has dedicated a small amount of on-street parking spots for car-sharing vehicles.  This would bring the cars right in to the neighborhood, allowing the service to reach a much wider audience. Secondly, the City of Milwaukee could utilize the Zipcar service to privatize part of the city’s vehicle fleet.  For example, in New York a pilot program of 25 vehicles is estimated to save the city $500,000 over five years, in reduced maintenance, fuel, and vehicle acquisition costs. This program has the added benefit of allowing city residents to use these vehicles as regular car-sharing vehicles during evenings and weekends. A collaboration between the City of Milwaukee and a private car-sharing service could bring new benefits to residents, be environmentally friendly, and reduce costs for residents and the city alike.

Categories: Car Culture

6 thoughts on “Car-sharing in Milwaukee…”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    In our recent visit to San Francisco, my wife and I marveled that in addition to a rich and comprehensive mass transit system, including the famous cable cars, we saw plenty of of bike rental and Zipcar availability all over the city.

  2. I would like to see increased advocacy for this idea so that we can achieve broader access and use. There are two approaches that could make sense and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. First, I think the idea of using municipal fleets makes a lot of sense. I would also like to see the concept taken a step further, seeking to integrate the access/fare card system developed for car-sharing to also be usable as a fare card for other public transportation – like buses and eventually perhaps bike shares. The shared fare card is common in other cities – like the Metro Card in NYC. One card… multiple transportation options. One model for this type of government partnership / integrated transportation system is demonstrated in Chicago: http://www.igocars.org/ I-Go operates as a nonprofit and as such, is motivated by a mission. Unlike Zipcar, they seek to ensure access to all neighborhoods. This is something I think is important in Milwaukee too.

    The other model is Zipcar. While imperfect in some ways, the fact that they have already entered the Milwaukee market is leveragable. What if MIAD and MSOE followed the UWM and Marquette lead. If all four schools had carsharing, we would at least develop fairly broad coverage across downtown. This model is dependent on the schools effectively guaranteeing ridership. Its an easy financial model for Zipcar because they transfer costs and risk to the schools. If there is not enough use to generate sufficient volume and income, the school’s make up the minimum costs. At least that is how I understand the deal. In the case of MIAD and MSOE, I would think the likelihood of nonstudent participation would be higher – and hence greater likelihood of fees generated without cost back to the schools.

    How can we move this forward? I would like to see MIAD and MSOE carefully consider the idea. At the same time, it would be great to see the City of Milwaukee pilot this in some way to test some models. What’s next?

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Juli, Yeah I’m with you (of course) I’d like to see this service expanded in many ways. Especially, in the short run, MSOE and MIAD as those seem like services that could get high use…

  4. Kevin Muhs says:

    As someone who just moved to Boston for grad school, I have to say that I have definitely enjoyed the convenience of being a Zipcar member. The coverage and number of cars out here is amazing, and it definitely helped me outfit my apartment when I moved. It would be great if Milwaukee could get something similar as far as distribution and availability of the cars (either with Zipcar or through another method).

    However, one thing I have to say is that I’m not sure how easy it would be to spread car sharing beyond downtown in Milwaukee, simply because MCTS is such a poor alternative for a person’s daily use. I guess what I am arguing is that there needs to be an extensive transit system for the car sharing program to supplement. But maybe not, perhaps there would indeed be enough of a market from those that use bikes and/or buses as their primary mode(s). Just a thought.

  5. Galen says:

    This is a great start but for car sharing to truly take off, dropping the car off at a different location is necessary. This frees the user from being attached to the car all day and will make it much more popular. They do this with bike sharing programs in cities such as Barcelona and Paris. To do it with cars would require some kind of GPS system that informs the driver about available dropoff spaces and a technology that tracks where the cars are, and even perhaps a team of drivers to relocate cars to in demand locations. It will require coordination, technology sharing, and a serious committment. I’m surprised the MIT folks who developed ZIP car haven’t hammered this out yet.

  6. Krish says:

    Here’s an email I received from Zipcar.com:

    Thank you for letting us know that your area of Milwaukee is ready for Zipcars! It sounds like Zipcar would be a good fit there for you and others.

    The best way to let us know your neighborhood is ready for Zipcar is to have your friends and neighbors add their address to our “notify me page” http://www.zipcar.com/notify-me. We use this information as a guide to place our next fleet of cars. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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