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Car-Share Programs

Best Practice Category:

Parking Management Transportation Demand Management


Car-share programs make cars available to users for short-term rentals. The cars can generally be used by anyone with a valid driver’s license and a membership to the program. People can typically sign up for the programs online or through a mobile application, and then use the web or mobile app to find, reserve, and rent a car. Cars are generally located in downtowns, on university campuses, and in other dense, high-demand areas. Car-share programs can be an effective method to provide access to automobiles for people who might not own or otherwise have access to a vehicle, such as students, low income families, or those who do not want to incur the expense of owning a vehicle. By providing on-demand access to vehicles, car-share programs may help motivate people to forgo car ownership or reduce the number of cars per household.

San Francisco Department of the Environment.
credit: San Francisco Department of the Environment

Car-shares are provided by companies that own fleets of vehicles available for rent, and by peer-to-peer sharing networks. Within the fleet model there are two general types of car-shares provided by companies: free-floating and assigned space. Free-floating programs allow cars to be picked up and returned, where permitted, on streets or in certain lots within the service area. This allows car-share users to make one-way trips. Alternatively, car-shares may require that users pick up and drop off the cars in designated spaces. In some cases cars must be picked up and dropped off from the same spot, requiring users to make round trips. This ensures that, when not in use, there is always a car available in a given area.

Car-share has evolved to other forms, including ride-share and ride-hailing.  Ride-share involves sharing a ride with another person.  Travelers often meet at a common point, such as a park-and-ride lot, and share a ride to a common destination. Ride-share is not profit motivated, but drivers are usually compensated for the cost of the commute. The driver is simply a volunteer commuter whose goal is to get to the same destination. Ride-hailing services, on the other hand, are typically for-profit transactions. Trending companies, like Uber and Lyft are often seen as a combination of both ride-share and ride-hail models.

As ride-share and ride-hailing companies become more integrated into the mobility picture in urban areas, there may be profound implications for vehicle trips, parking demand, and vehicle ownership.  At the time of the development of this toolkit, there are no examples of cities modifying minimum parking requirements for new or existing development as a result of the impact of ride-share and ride-hailing services.  However, continued expansion of these services may create a need or opportunity for refinements to minimum parking requirements in the future.

Parking for car-share, ride-share, and ride-hail services may be provided in a number of ways. Municipalities may provide parking spaces in lots or on streets, and depending on how supportive the municipality wants to be they can either charge a fee to the service provider for parking spaces, or they may offer free parking. Owners of private parking lots may similarly provide parking spaces for shared cars, and in some cases where permitted by the zoning code a developer may count spaces for car-shares toward their minimum required spaces. Parking arrangements can be negotiated between providers and municipalities.


  • Reduce parking need
  • Provide on-demand access to cars
  • Reduce car ownership
  • Reduce VMT


City of San Francisco

Care Share in San Francisco by mariordo59
Care Share in San Francisco; mariordo59

The City of San Francisco updated their planning code to be more supportive of car-sharing vendors. Under the new code, parking spaces may be converted to car-share spaces in residential and commercial areas. Additionally, developers and project owners can be required by the planning commission to pay annual car-share membership costs for residents of new development projects. The planning commission can impose this condition when approving parking above the number of spaces permitted and when the commission makes certain findings regarding the project’s impact on transportation.

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City of Portland, OR

The City of Portland’s zoning code contains a provision supportive of car-sharing. Reductions to minimum required parking are allowed for car-sharing under Chapter 33.266 Parking And Loading , 32.266.100 section E, subsection 6. The number of required parking spaces is reduced by two spaces for every car-sharing space that is provided, up to a maximum reductions of 25 percent of the required spaces. Developers must show car-sharing spaces on the building plans, and they must submit an agreement between the property owner and the car-sharing company.


Car2Go by Ryou-kun16
Car2Go ; Ryou-kun16

Car2Go is a car-share company with operations in cities across the U.S. and worldwide, including San Diego where they currently operate a car-share fleet with over 200 E-Smart cars. The cars are accessed via that car2go app. Users can pick up a car, drive wherever they need to go, and leave the car parked within the service area. Members pay $35 at sign up and $0.41 per minute, $14.99 per hour, or $84.99 per day for using the car. A driver protection fee of $1 is charged each time a vehicle is rented.

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Zipcar is a car-sharing company with operations in cities across North America and Europe, with locations at over 100 university campuses. Zipcar services transit areas, universities, and businesses, as well as general users. In some locations the cars can be picked up for one-way trips, while at others the cars must be returned to the same spot. Users pay a $25 fee when signing up for a membership online. Memberships cost $7 per month or $70 per year for driving plans that cost $8 to $10 per hour. A premium plan is available for $50 per month for frequent users. Plans may vary by service area. Zipcar services are operated throughout Los Angeles County, with strong concentrations in Downtown Los Angeles, the Westside, Claremont, and Pasadena.

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Getaround is a peer-to-peer car-share service that connects people who make their cars available for rent. Car owners can earn money for putting their car up for rent and others can rent cars for rates staring at $5 per hour. The service pays car owners who share their cars and provide them with a monthly driving credit so that they can borrow other people’s cars. In some service locations there is dedicated parking for shared vehicles.

Getaround provides car insurance for the vehicles to protect the owners and borrowers. They verify users’ identification and DMV records to ensure that drivers can be trusted, and they offer a security service to track cars and disable them if necessary. Users are given an access device that enables cars to be rented using a smart phone. The service is backed by 24/7 roadside assistance and a customer service center.

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