In 2002, San Francisco began requiring every residential development with 50 or more units and every commercial building with 25 or more parking spaces to have at least one space set aside for carsharing–a policy that has not only made carsharing more convenient, but has created de facto advertising for carshare services; it's hard to miss the signs and vehicles dotted throughout the city. Last week, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to expand those requirements. But as today's San Francisco Chronicle reports, the most interesting thing about the vote is that it provoked no opposition whatsoever

While transportation planning is a contact sport in San Francisco, the lone speaker at Thursday's meeting, Tom Radulovich of Livable City, felt obliged to say that the environmental group "is very supportive of car sharing."

City planners describe car sharing as "a sort of library service for cars." Drivers who pay an annual fee to join a car-share organization can reserve cars, by the hour or by the day, and pick them up at hundreds of spots around the city. The hourly rates include gas and insurance and, in some cases, mileage charges.

"We estimate our average member can save some $600 a month over the cost of owning a car in the city," said Michael Uribe, general manager of Zipcar, one of two car-sharing businesses operating in San Francisco. "And there are about 15 to 20 vehicles removed from the road for every car-share vehicle."

…The city requirements have brought surprisingly few complaints.

"Car sharing is growing tremendously in the Bay Area, especially in business and institutional use," [said Rick Hutchinson, CEO of City CarShare, the nonprofit company that first brought car sharing to San Francisco in 2001.] "Most enlightened developers have found that car-share cars can be an amenity advantage for their buildings" by enabling workers to take transit into the city but still have a car for errands.

San Francisco, which already provides car-share spaces across the street from City Hall, went a step further last month when it teamed with City CarShare to provide car-share vehicles for city workers on official business.

The 2000 census found that nearly 30 percent of San Francisco households don't have a car. That ranks San Francisco 14th among cities with at least 100,000 residents and makes it the only city west of St. Louis in the top 30.

City officials want to see that number of car-free households grow and hope car-sharing can ease the way.

That would be no problem for Melissa Bosworth, who works for a downtown San Francisco magazine.

"I wouldn't own a car here, parking is so bad," she said as she wrestled her bicycle out of the back of her City CarShare Toyota Prius. "I've used (car share) for two years, and it's all I need."

This is just one more sign that carsharing is moving from the periphery to the mainstream of American society–membership to carsharing services has grown by 117 percent since 2007, and readers will recall that in June, the California Assembly passed a bill that would facilitate peer-to-peer carsharing

Jeremy Adam Smith


Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the editor who helped launch He's the author of The Daddy Shift (Beacon Press, June 2009); co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton

Things I share: Mainly babysitting with other parents! I also share all the transportation I can, through bikes and buses and trains and carpooling.