26 August 2008

The state of car sharing in Los Angeles

I can't believe I've been doing this blog for almost three months now and I haven't yet talked about car sharing.

Car sharing, for those of us who do not have a car in this massive car-hungry metropolis, is an invaluable way to run errands or accomplish small car-dependant tasks without breaking the bank and/or getting caught up in the mounds of paperwork you might find in a traditional car rental agency. Or at least it is supposed to be. When I moved here one year ago, I joined FlexCar, and was quite pleased with the service. I live Downtown, and was delighted to find that FlexCar had 4 cars in the garage behind my building, which I started using immediately. Around the beginning of this year, FlexCar was bought out by ZipCar, which is a national company, and we were promised the same service. I'm sorry to say that ZipCar did not deliver. As mentioned in this blog, ZipCar actually pulled many of the cars from around the city ... in fact, it pulled all of the cars from its non-university areas, and it even pulled some of those cars too. And its prices are now higher than that of FlexCar, both its membership fees and its hourly rates. One wonders what a company could be doing right if the service costs more and you get less.

Nine months later and ZipCar still hasn't capitalized on the movement of people who, driven by high gas prices, want to shed their cars and rely on public transportation more. Sure, I am a USC student and I can use the ZipCars there - but I live downtown, so it's not at all convenient for me. I have used the ZipCars a few times since they took over, which have been necessary trips, but the lack of cars available to me has forced me to become more familiar with the public transportation system. It has been an unexpected bonus on what was an unfortunate situation. I would really like to see ZipCar work, but with their lack of expansion and service in what could be a very lucrative market, it makes me wonder if ZipCar even wants to succeed in Southern California at all.


Will Campbell... said...

I had been a proud Flexcar member since 2004 and will never forgive the zipperheads at Zipcar for what they've done to LA's fledgling carsharing system.

Shortly after getting my spiff new Zipcar membership card I cut it to shreds when they shed crocodile tears abandoning downtown (and the car closest to me at the Eco Village near Vermont and 1st) for the more revenue friendly zones around USC and UCLA.

Fug Zipcar. Even if they parked a car in front of my house tomorrow I'd tell 'em to go to hell.

Keith Kamisugi said...

I live in San Francisco and used to use the FlexCars in the downtown area whenever I used to visit.

It's mystifying that they removed so many cars in the non-university areas.

There's no revenue logic to having only a few cars at USC and UCLA.

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