Parking has emerged as the Achilles’ heel of the city’s ambitious high-density housing experiment, with critics repeatedly complaining that residents of new apartments in and around the downtown corridor will bogart already limited on-street spaces. Santa Barbara officials are actively strategizing ways to better mesh alternative forms of transportation with the Average Unit-size Density program — which banks on apartment dwellers walking, biking, or busing instead of driving — and last month signed a contract with Zipcar to bring 10 of its rideshare vehicles to the city.
The cars will be stationed at strategic points along busy routes — one each in City Garages 10 (Ortega and Anacapa) and 6 (Anapamu and Anacapa); two at the Amtrak Depot lot; one in Cottage Hospital’s parking garage; and five on the corners of Sola and De la Vina, Figueroa and Chapala, De la Guerra and De la Vina, Micheltorena and San Andres, and Milpas and Gutierrez. The fleet will join a handful of student-specific Zipcars already located at Santa Barbara City College, Westmont, UCSB, and Isla Vista.
Representatives at each school reported the cars are well-liked and heavily used. They’re faster than a bus and cheaper than a cab ride to run errands, attend a doctor’s appointment, or even take a quick trip home, explained James Wagner, UCSB’s Transportation Alternatives Program manager, and they’re available to students under 24, the typical cutoff age to rent a car. “People are really happy with them,” he said.
Wagner and City Traffic Planner Peter Brown both referenced the car-shedding phenomenon occurring in cities across the country, where couples or small families looking to save forgo owning two vehicles in favor of one and rely on shared cars when needed. Brown said the Santa Barbara program will be evaluated after three to six months to determine if more or fewer cars are needed. The official rollout will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 18.
Zipcar will lease each of the 10 parking spots from the city for $160 a month. Curbs will be painted and signs posted to designate the “home base” for each vehicle, which will be a mix of mostly four-door sedans like Ford Fiestas and Honda Civics, as well as a couple of larger SUVs, said Zipcar spokesperson Kate Hickman. Los Angeles area rates run around $9 for an hour and $75 for the day; Santa Barbara’s will be similar, said Hickman. Each Zipcar takes 15 personally owned vehicles off the road, the company claims, increases transit usage among members by 46 percent, and reduces their annual driving miles by 40 percent on average.