As a follow up to my previous post on new bicycle sharing programs, news today that Paris plans to introduce an all electric car sharing program within the city. As the article notes, the system has the potential to provide many benefits but also many pitfalls. It will be interesting to see how the system pans out but given the right technology, I think it could be very promising.
Of course there are several private companies that already provide car sharing services to the public. Most of these systems use traditional, gasoline powered vehicles (although many are hybrids). For example, ZipCar operates in thirteen US cities and London and allows members to use several different types of car models for short term needs. ZipCar also markets to students at select universities. The system is great for people who live in cities and only need to use a car every so often (like for moving, short trips to a store where walking or transit is inconvenient, etc.). It is also great for couples who own only one car. When I lived in Washington, it was a very popular system and you would notice ZipCars parked all over the place. Sadly, ZipCar does not offer service in any Texas cities. In fact, I believe the only car sharing system in Texas is offered through Car2go, a German company, which recently started a system in Austin.
Would such a car sharing program work in Houston? In the inner loop area, I think it would be a great alternative, especially for households that currently have two cars. I think it could also work nicely in conjunction with some of the local universities. As the Houston’s population expands and density increases, city leaders are going to have to start thinking out of the box for alternative transportation options for citizens. Increased transit is great and a much needed (and long overdo) infrastructure improvement. But looking for other systems to supplement transit and make living without a private automobile a realistic alternative here in Houston should also be on the table.