Car sharing rare in San Francisco's lower-income areas 

Despite the increasing popularity of car sharing, the service is unavailable for many San Francisco residents in low-income neighborhoods such as Bayview-Hunters Point.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview and other neighborhoods in the southeast part of The City such as Visitacion Valley, lashed out at car-share companies this week for not providing services for her district.

“When you look at the map, car share doesn’t even exist,” Cohen said, referring to the southeast part of San Francisco. “There’s a demand, without a doubt.”

Car sharing has become a growing industry in large cities throughout the country. Much like rental cars, members reserve vehicles for an hour or a day and pay a set rate, returning them to the same spot for others to use.

But companies such as City CarShare, which has more than 100 locations in San Francisco, don’t serve the Bayview. The closest City CarShare outlets to the heart of the Bayview are currently more than one mile away in Bernal Heights or in the Dogpatch neighborhood.

Zipcar, another popular car-share service, also doesn’t have vehicles in the Bayview.

Michael Uribe, general manager of Zipcar San Francisco, told The San Francisco Examiner the company uses three criteria when determining where to offer services.

Zipcar targets densely populated markets, where there is strong public transportation already available, and wherever parking is most restricted.

“We see the value of putting cars in the Bayview,” he said. “Zipcar will be there eventually.”

Cohen’s comments came as supervisors were discussing a plan to allow City CarShare the right to rent spaces on public streets. The plan is expected to expand the reach of car share companies while providing some extra cash to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Each space would cost $150 a month to rent, and motorists that park illegally in the spots will be hit with a $100 ticket and could be towed away.

The pilot program set to begin this fall would only involve City CarShare, a nonprofit that has entered into a contract with the City Administrator’s Office. It was initially going to take up six total parking spaces throughout The City. After the pilot program, more spaces are expected to open up for companies such as Zipcar.

The original six spots for the program are located in neighborhoods in San Francisco where car sharing is already nearby such as Russian Hill, Lower Pacific Heights and the Mission district.

The press office for City CarShare did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but it appears that Cohen’s criticism has had an impact on the organization.

Shortly after a committee meeting on Monday, two spots were added to the pilot program, at Third Street and Carroll Avenue and at Third and 22nd streets.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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