Carsharing: We Share a Parking Lot, Why Not Share a Car?

Big Picture: One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. Shifting from the old model of owning a car to thinking of mobility as a service is an economic solution that helps people’s wallets and reduces the waste of producing more cars than we need.

Local Action: Sign up to become a member of Zipcar now and/or send a note to Jen Gennari at (expressing your interest in having a Zip Car based in our neighborhood) and she will send it to the Zipcar team.

Here in our floating home community, it’s no secret that parking spaces are in short supply, especially around certain docks. There’s a solution that may at first sound counter-intuitive: add a shared car to one of our lots. The benefits are numerous, especially if owning a car has become a financial burden for someone on a fixed income. What if there was a car you could use only when you needed it, rather than paying for it year-round, whether it’s in use or not? The typical car is parked 95% of the time. With a shared car available, some households could shift from two-car to one-car (or no-car) families.

What is carsharing?

Carsharing is a membership-based service available to all qualified drivers. No separate written agreement is required each time a member reserves and uses a car. Members have access to a dispersed network of shared vehicles at any time via apps or arrangements. There are two companies available in Marin: Turo and Zipcar.

Turo is a way for private car owners to earn extra money by listing their car on the website and for people who may not own or need a car to rent them. Like Airbnb, owners keep a calendar of when their car is available. Turo covers the cars with $1 million in liability insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance throughout the trip. Turo only rents by the day (not by the hour), and it is up to the two people to meet, review the driver’s license, and hand over the key.

Zipcar is more similar to a regular car rental agency, minus the paperwork hassle. Members pay $70/year and get 180 miles per day. You get access to an insured, maintained fleet of cars of different types. The cars are parked in set locations (in Marin, currently only in San Rafael) and unlocked with a passcode. You reserve through an app and can reserve for an hour or more. Zipcar’s motto is: own the trip, not the car.

Next Steps

At the February FHA meeting, I explained what carsharing is to see if there was any interest. Overwhelmingly, the board members present favored Zipcar. Since then, I have been in conversation with Waldo Point Harbor, the locations team at Zipcar, and with the Transportation Authority of Marin. They hope to find a good location for a Zipcar in southern Marin. What counts as good? A parking spot next to a major transit hub, such as the Sausalito ferry terminal, Marin City’s Donahue bus stop, or the Manzanita park-and-ride. Because Manzanita often floods, and because parking is at a premium downtown, there is a real possibility that our parking lot (or Marin City’s) would be an ideal location.

Step One: before a decision is made, Zipcar wants to know that there are plenty of visitors, business people, and residents who would take advantage of their service. Step Two: the next step is to see if we can convince them that a car at the intersection of Gate 6 and Bridgeway is the perfect spot.