San Francisco makes room for shared cars

Living in a big city often requires sharing — sharing the road, sharing the sidewalks, even sharing a table at a crowded cafe.

San Francisco’s latest plan involves encouraging drivers to get on board with car sharing.

The plan kicked off in a pilot stage last August, with 12 on-street car share spaces created for drivers who use the the non-profit City CarShare program to cruise around The City.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency now plans to open up more than 100 additional spaces, and may include other car-share programs in the deal, according to SFMTA Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin.

But the agency is facing a familiar foe: local businesses.

Places that thrive on private-car owners are opposed to the plan, saying it takes away available spaces for potential customers.

Reiskin said that residents need to look at the situation from a different perspective.

Statistics say that each car-share space created removes about 15 cars from the road. That, he said, could mean leaving more empty spaces as many drivers could start using one car, instead of each of them using their own:

“Flipping the understanding of — it’s not just taking a parking space away, but it’s potentially freeing up parking because people aren’t going to need to have their cars in that area — that’s where we need to go.”

The real problem, according to the SFMTA, is clearly marking spaces and better enforcement to keep private cars from snagging the spaces.

The agency plans on creating a demand for shared cars by actively marketing them to the public.

Supervisor Malia Cohen of District 10 spearheaded this endeavor when she first complained that the SFMTA did not provide sufficient car share spaces to the southeastern end of The City, particularly the Bayview.

She attributes the lack of car share usage in the Bayview to the SFMTA’s neglect of the area:

“In many of our outlying neighborhoods, that of which I represent, we haven’t seen the same level of success. I believe there’s significant room for us to work more collaboratively with departments and car-sharing companies to expand the overall access.”