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Cambridge and Zipcar [07 May 2012|03:15am]

I'm a few years late to this debate, but back in 2009, Cambridge discussed whether people should be allowed to rent their driveway parking spots to Zipcar.

Apparently the concerns are a combination between:

  • People with cars might rent out their driveway spot and park on the street, therefore decreasing available street parking for other residents, and
  • the camel's nose under the tent effect of allowing any commercial use of residential zoned property.

At least, that's what I gleaned from this committee report. I was thinking about this issue because I may be moving soon, maybe to a place that has a parking spot, which I don't intend to use, because I have no car.

I'm not sure how much money Zipcar actually pays for parking spots. According to this page on their site, they prefer to pay nothing. I guess that's not a surprise. I would consider renting them the space for a very low cost, because I would get the benefit of a Zipcar that would often be available for me to use. I imagine a lot of Cambridge residents (of which I am not one) would feel the same way. Between that and the fact that the scenario of a person with a rare driveway spot and a car actually choosing to give up the spot and fight for street parking is laughably unlikely, I don't think this is much of a concern (and if it did happen, it would be somewhat self-regulating, since people would not want to do it if they could not find street parking).

The bigger concern is probably landlords renting the spots to Zipcar instead of giving them to their tenants. A lot of lease agreements might very well prohibit tenants renting out the parking anyway. It seems like they would, since they prohibit other sorts of subleasing without permission.

But something about this concern feels backward to me. Street parking spots are public space, regulated by the city supposedly for public interest. Some number of individual car owners might suffer even more inconvenience than they already do because there is less street parking available, but this cost would come at the benefit of getting many more people access to shared transportation, and might even convince some people to give up their cars entirely.

As far as the commercial use of residential areas goes, that argument reminds me of when I got a ticket in Somerville for having a U-Haul van (not a truck, and also with noncommercial plates) parked in front of my own house with my assigned visitor parking permit in the window. It turns out that the visitor parking permit does not work for "commercial" vehicles, which apparently includes normal-sized vans with noncommercial plates used by noncommercial people to move into their noncommercial residence. In other words, I don't care for the argument.This is not the sort of commercial use we need to worry about -- Zipcar is commercial, but the parking-spot aspect of the service has very little to do with the kinds of commerce that are the concern of zoning laws.

In 2009, 200 Cambridge-based vehicles were used by 10,000 people. That's pretty cool, and probably something the city should embrace. Maybe they have! I need to keep looking for more recent news.

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