As most community boards in the Bronx have recently been notified about a new carshare program, some are seeing more parking spots earmarked for the program than others, with Community Districts 9 and 12 getting more than 10 times as many as Community Districts 5 and 6.
In the new citywide program, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) will reserve public parking spots for on-demand short-term rental cars that drivers can reserve from their smartphones through carshare companies Zipcar, Getaround and Truqit. The effort comes after a 2018-2020 City Council-mandated carshare pilot that DOT deemed successful.
As part of the pilot, DOT reserved municipal parking spots for the rental cars in select neighborhoods throughout the city, including street parking in the Parkchester and Soundview sections of the Bronx, parking lots on Belmont Avenue and White Plains Road and the Jerome-190th Street parking garage. While the carsharing industry had already been in NYC for years, companies utilized private parking facilities prior to the city initiative.
The program is meant to lower household transportation costs, improve mobility options, reduce congestion and improve local air quality by adding another shared mobility option that could inspire residents to sell their car or delay purchasing one, according to DOT. A DOT report on the pilot also found that car owners are incentivized to use their vehicle as much as possible because of the upfront costs of the vehicle and insurance, but carshare members evaluate each trip to see if it’s more worthwhile than biking, walking or using public transit, in turn driving less.
The city agency is reviewing sites and conducting outreach as part of the program launch and anticipates the program will launch “soon,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone told the Bronx Times.
In the Bronx, community boards have received letters from DOT with a list of what the agency is describing as “preliminary approved sites” for boards to review.
But the Bronx Times has learned that while some boards have been told more than 30 sites have been approved for their community district, others have less than 10. While the letters from DOT list off the requested site locations for each district, they do not specify that each site actually incorporates two parking spots.
The Bronx Times obtained the list of parking locations from all of the borough’s community boards except for Community Board 1 — Chair Arline Parks is not aware of a program notification and DOT did not respond by press time as to whether the board was sent one.
The parking spots are requested by the three carshare companies participating in the program and must follow siting criteria, like the spots being in unmetered curbside parking lanes.
Barone told the Bronx Times that there is no set number of spaces planned for the Bronx and all site requests are evaluated to ensure fair distribution throughout the city. The program requires companies to put 20% of their carshare parking spots in “equity zones,” or historically underserved neighborhoods identified as Tier 1 Priority Investment Areas in the DOT Neighborhood Streets Plan. Much of the Bronx is categorized as an equity zone.
Community Districts 9 and 12, which have the most preliminary spots, include many neighborhoods marked as equity zones. But Community Districts 5 and 6, which have the least spots put forward so far, are made up entirely of these zones.
Community Board 9 District Manager William Rivera told the Bronx Times that board members have questions for DOT, which they plan to discuss at their November Transportation Committee meeting.
“We are concerned about parking being taken away from residents, and there are a lot of new proposed car share location requests,” Rivera said. “We want to make sure what the city is doing makes sense.”
It’s unclear how Community Board 12 will react to losing more than 60 parking spots for the program. Members have felt strongly about protecting local parking in the past, but were supportive of a new White Plains Road redesign that removed more than 100 parking spots.
CB12 District Manager George Torres told the Bronx Times he hasn’t heard from board members about the program yet and doesn’t expect to hear much feedback from the community until the carshare spots are already on the street. But he takes issue with the way DOT is approaching the project.
“They are unilaterally doing this without a vote from the community board, and so we will evaluate it as we do get complaints, but they basically rolled this out like they rolled out every other initiative, because regardless of whether the community board was supportive or not, they’ve implemented these things,” he said.
Theodore James, a Community Board 12 board member who sits on the board’s Transportation Committee and was against the White Plains Road redesign, said he would rather drive his own car than a vehicle others could easily access and potentially damage.
“I can’t trust the safety of that vehicle,” he told the Bronx Times. ” … This is an expensive piece of machinery, which is a weapon in your hand, literally.”
Out of 30 parking spots in the Bronx that were used in the pilot, there was an average of 28 trips per month and 21 unique drivers, while citywide, there were 24 trips per month with 17 unique drivers across 280 parking spots.
The program will launch on a rolling basis and more carshare companies will be able to register in future application periods.
According to Shawn Garcia, a Bronx and Uptown organizer for advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, the average car is parked nearly 95% of the time while costing more than $10,000 a year to own and operate.
“Car-share can play an important role in reducing car dependency by giving people access to cars when they need them,” Garcia said in a statement to the Bronx Times. “Our city leaders must also invest in bike and transit infrastructure to give New Yorkers more efficient, sustainable, and reliable ways to get around.”