ZipCar is among a group of four car sharing companies that are vying for a contract to operate the vehicles within city limits. (Photo courtesy Associated Press)
ZipCar is among a group of four car sharing companies that are vying for a contract to operate the vehicles within city limits. (Photo courtesy Associated Press)

CITYWIDE — Four companies have thrown their hat in the race to provide car sharing services to Santa Monica that officials say would constitute an important piece of the transportation puzzle envisioned to cut down on traffic and parking issues.

ZipCar, Car2Go, Hertz on Demand and Enterprise WeCar all submitted proposals for a one-year pilot program that range in the number of vehicles present in Santa Monica, types of vehicles that would be available and cost to Santa Monicans to use them.

They all allow users to reserve cars for specific uses without the paperwork inherent in renting a car. Appointments can last for several hours, allowing people to complete errands when needed without the burden of owning a car.

That can save clients $6,000 per year, according to Zipcar, and city officials have put the savings as high as $10,000 per year.

The idea is to give Santa Monicans the freedom to operate in a one-car household or cut cars from their lives completely, one step in the process to achieving goals enshrined in the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element that requires a 35 percent reduction in peak hour trips by residential land uses.

The company selected may also be responsible for operating the municipal car pool, a system that allows Santa Monica employees to take a car out when they have an off-site meeting.

Although City Hall had the identities of the companies for several months, they would not reveal which had made bids for the contract. Officials plan to come to the City Council with a recommendation on which company will work best for the city on June 25, said Sam Morrissey, City Hall’s traffic engineer.

Although each company offers essentially the same flexibility, the proposals differ in terms of the types and numbers of vehicles they plan to provide within the city limits, and even who may drive them.

ZipCar is probably one of the better-known car share companies in the area, with a physical presence already in Los Angeles including 14,000 members and a fleet of 178 cars operating in the greater Los Angeles area, including college campuses like USC, UCLA and Loyola Marymount University, according to the proposal.

There are also two cars already in Santa Monica, and talks between the company and developer Marc Luzzatto to put ZipCars in his proposed development at East Village, what is now the Village Trailer Park, are ongoing.

“If there were a car share service here, it would make it more convenient for people to live close,” Luzzatto said. “As a business owner, I like it when my employees live close to the office. It means there’s a shorter commute, they’re better rested, happier and they’re more likely to live close to work.”

The Zipcar Santa Monica program would offer 10 cars to start in neighborhood areas accessible with smart cards and smartphone apps. More cars would be added in as the locations show demand, usually between 38 and 45 percent usage for several consecutive months, according to the proposal.

The company’s entire fleet is composed primarily of sedans, although almost 17 percent are either hybrid or electric vehicles, according to the proposal.

It costs $25 to register and $60 per year as an annual fee. A rate schedule was not available, but the company website shows a charge of $9 per hour and $73 per day for Los Angeles users that do not want to pay for a monthly program that costs $50 per month and gives six hours of pre-paid driving.

Users have to be at least 21 years old, although Santa Monica College students will have an option to use the cars if they’re over the age of 18.

In contrast, Hertz Car on Demand wants to put between 15 and 20 vehicles in Santa Monica, potentially at high-traffic areas like Santa Monica College, Downtown, Third Street Promenade and the Bergamot Station of the new Exposition Light Rail line.

The range in prices is wide — between $6.50 and $22 on a week day and $8 and $23.50 on a weekend depending on the type of car arranged.

The company also touts existing relationships with some of Santa Monica’s largest employers, like the RAND Corporation, Macerich, the owners of Santa Monica Place, and Red Bull North America, amongst others.

Enterprise WeCar, another company connected to a well-known car rental service, proposes six electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles, with the intention to increase to eight and then 12 within two years. The company also plans to install electric vehicle charging stations to support the cars.

The first six cars would be put in and around Downtown, with two locations along Fourth Street and one at the Civic Center, according to the proposal.

Rates would fall between $8.50 per hour on week days and $9.50 per hour on weekends, under the most expensive scenario listed in the proposal.

Finally, Car2Go, developed by the Daimler AG Business Innovation department six years ago, wants to put small, efficient Smartcars on the streets, although much of the proposal depends on whether the company also expands into either the Los Angeles area or the South Bay.

The company would request the ability to park anywhere in Santa Monica, and proposes to pay City Hall a set annual rate to offset the impact on parking meter revenues.

The service would cost users a $35 registration fee, and then 38 cents per minute for a $13.99 per hour maximum to give drivers the flexibility to pay only for the time they actually use the car. Most drivers must be 22 years old, with exceptions for full-time university students.

A 2005 study sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration showed that car sharing allows people to give up a second or third vehicle, and estimates that five private vehicles are replaced by each shared car.

It also suggests that to be successful, car sharing must be properly marketed, start in dense, walkable neighborhoods and be backed up with a range of supportive policies like zoning incentives and the inclusion of car sharing in sustainability plans.

The City Council passed an ordinance in 2011 that would allow car-share vehicles to take up space on city streets, and the LUCE carries multiple references to the necessity of such a program.

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