We’ve all seen them, with their neighborhood-centric advertising and their proliferation in the parking lots of Capitol Hill. They used to flex and now they zip. They can be plug in electric or the can be hybrid. Best of all, they can be shared. Indeed,  I am talking about Zipcars.

Re-rendering of orinigal SDOT street design proposal shows Zipcar parking at Broadway & Denny

Some may say that this is a somewhat odd topic for a blog that promotes alternative means of getting around town, but hear me out. The one gripe I hear from my car owning friends is over convenience. “Some things are made easier with cars” they say. With car sharing on the rise on the Hill, many of those friends have ditched their cars in lieu of a cheaper solution- Zipcars.

Now, the thing about Zipcars is that, depending on where you are located, it may not be completely convenient to hop in and go. They are also never really positioned with multi-modal transfers in mind (unlike Flexcar). Also, in the coming years we will be seeing more development on the Hill. As fierce as most neighborhood activists are, developers will be steered toward vacant spaces for their developing needs. What space is vacant and cheap to build over? Parking lots. Where do Zipcars live? Parking lots.

You are starting to think this is a post about Seattle’s effort to kill car culture, no?

Broadway is highlited as highly accessable with 10th as a possible extension

On the contrary. I am quite happy that these lots are being phased out and doubly glad that the city council is ruling to repeal minimum parking requirements for low rise development. I do see that Zipcars will be displaced though and instead of relegating them to another lot somewhere, I thought maybe a more practical choice might be floating around somewhere.

The possible solution popped up in a recent conversation that I was having about the need to see these parking lots develop and turn into something worthwhile. Why don’t we put Zipcars on street? Obviously not the whole Capitol Hill fleet, but some of it. A likely location for these on street spaces? How about Capitol Hill’s soon-to-be transit mall?

Broadway will have buses and a tram line running on the surface and right below will be light rail. There will be access to all three within one block on Broadway and as we have seen in the most recent street configuration plans, Broadway is going to have room for parking on both sides of our transit mall. This is where Zipcar comes in. As we have also seen, there has been a lot of push-back on increased street parking rates in the center city. SDOT is feeling the squeeze, but maybe they can fire back. Place Zipcars along a thoroughfare with some of the heaviest foot traffic in the city, and add another transport option.

As it stands right now the city wants to increase rates to $3 per hour on Broadway. The city could net the same amount of money as they would net from 15 hours of parking usage per day at this rate by charging a lower parking fee (approx $1 per hour 24/7) to Zipcar and adding on another $1.62 (approximately) for every vehicle mile traveled (Zipcar charges $7 per hour to most Seattle customers) and averaging 13 hours of vehicle use per day per car. The easiest pilot would probably utilize a smaller fleet, but the (very very broad and basic) suggestion I am presenting is based upon a fleet of 30 cars.

It may not be the most streamlined proposal and as you can see, the math would need to be tweaked to give Zipcar some incentive but maybe this could help the city net some dough, provide a reason for someone to ditch their car, appease the autophiles afraid of a “war on cars,” and help Broadway become a more alternative transport oriented corridor. It’s possible that it could even improve safety. With less parking on this stretch of Broadway, comes less parking for those coming to the Hill with the intent of drinking and driving.