A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Want Zipcar?

Last night, Portland's League of Young Voters kicked off a campaign to get more involved in local issues in the city of Portland, with a focus on housing and transportation policies.

For both issues, League members zeroed in on our parking policies: Liz Trice brought up the point that the average parking space, which includes space to back out and maneuver around the lot, is about the size of a studio apartment. So current zoning, which requires two parking spaces per unit of housing, will effectively triple the price of an apartment. And naturally, these Stakhanovite parking production quotas incentivize car ownership and traffic congestion throughout the city and the region as a whole, in addition to making new housing construction for the middle class uneconomical.

One immediate solution could be a carsharing service like Zipcar. Shared cars allow anyone in the neighborhood who's paid an annual membership fee to reserve vehicles at an hourly rate: gas, maintenance, and insurance are all included. For most city-dwellers, carsharing is much more economical than owning a big-ticket depreciating asset like an automobile outright.

Presumably, if enough Portlanders enter their contact info on Zipcar's "notify me when carsharing comes to town" web page, they'll take notice and bring us some rides.

But Matti Gurney, who works for the Greater Portland Council of Governments, is keeping his own list to make a more formal petition to the nation's largest carsharing company. If you'd like it to be easier to live without a car in this town, send him an e-mail that says "Please add me to your carshare list. I live in Portland." Alec at the League would also like to be copied on your messages, so that he can keep track of our progress: alec@indyvoter.org.

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