2010-06-30 / Front Page

Local Leaders Take ‘Zip’ Out Of Rental Car Storage Plan

By Liz Goff

Local leaders voted recently to take the “zip” out of a Department of City Planning (DCP) proposal that could greatly reduce the number of parking spots available in private and municipal lots throughout the city. 

DCP officials are seeking approval for a zoning change that would set aside parking spots in the lots for “Zip Cars”, available to consumers through car rental agencies. If approved, the plan would make it legal for the rental agencies to lease parking spaces from private landlords and at municipal lots. The spaces would be used to store the “Zip Cars” to make them more accessible to New Yorkers.

“Zip Cars” are small vehicles used by car rental agencies in a time-share program that gives consumers an option to rent vehicles on an hourly basis. Consumers enter a membership agreement with the rental agencies that allows them to rent vehicles by the hour for a nominal fee.

Instead of being stored in rental lots, the “Zip Cars” are currently parked in spots on streets throughout the city. Consumers who rent one of the “Zip Cars” are issued a swipe card and are told where the vehicle is parked. The consumer proceeds to the car, uses the swipe card to open the door and recovers the car keys from a secure spot inside the car. Renters are billed each month for the number of hours they use the cars.

A Long Island City rental agent told the Gazette that people “love” the premise that allows them to rent a vehicle as they need it by the hour, rather than paying a high fee for a full day rental. “They eat it up,” the agent said.

It’s called “car sharing” and rental companies are calling on the city to help them centralize the location of the “Zip Cars” to make it easier for people to find them–and to cut down on the time it takes consumers to find a parking spot when they no longer need the cars.

DCP officials are requesting the zoning change to establish a policy that would allow the rental agencies to lease a percentage of spaces in private residential lots and municipal lots. As an example, if approved, the plan would allow the rental agencies to lease up to 40 per cent of total spaces in public garages, lots and municipal lots, taking spaces from motorists who shop on commercial strips such as Steinway Street.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials are backing the plan as a way to increase revenues for the cash-strapped city.

Members of Community Board 1 voted at a May 15 public hearing to deny the zoning change, saying the inclusion of municipal lots in the plan would have an “extremely detrimental effect of commercial districts”.

Board members sent a message to DCP officials that parking the “Zip Cars” in municipal lots must be eliminated from the request.

Editor’s note: This is a reprint of an article that ran last week with incorrect information. It runs this week with the information corrected.

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