Car sharing – a really good idea that helps build better communities – and sometimes needs a little help . . .

Seth Kaplan

The other day I got an email from the folks at Zipcar asking for support from Zipcar members who live in Brookline MA to speak up regarding proposed revised zoning ordinances to encourage car sharing, and this note is to ask for your support of these updates. The proposed changes are “Warrant Articles” 12 and 13 on the November 2009 Town Meeting Warrant.  Here’s a quick overview prepared by Zipcar:

  • A limited number of shared car parking locations will be permitted in all areas except those zoned for single family dwellings.
  • A special permitting process would be available for those locations where member demand requires us to provide more than the number of spaces allowed under Article 13.

In response I sent the following email to members of Brookline Town Meeting:

Dear Town Meeting Members,

I am writing to you today in both my personal capacity as a Brookline resident and in my professional capacity, as a climate and environmental advocate, in order to urge you to vote in favor of Warrant Articles 12 and 13.

Almost ten years ago I had an opportunity to discuss the idea of car sharing with the founders of Zipcar just prior to the creation and launch of that enterprise. I urged them to press ahead with the concept and company and I joined shortly after the launch and have made heavy use of their services ever since. I can directly testify that the presence of Zipcar (particularly in Brookline Village) has allowed my family to manage with only one car. Car sharing reduces demand for parking, consumption of land by cars and traffic on the streets as cars are juggled among parking spaces. It supports and enhances public transportation use and activity in our commercial and residential centers (like Brookline Village, Coolidge Corner and Washington Square) and town policy should encourage and foster its expansion.

Zipcar started with a single green Volkswagen New Beetle in the Springfield Street municipal parking lot in Cambridge and its early expansion brought it naturally to Brookline. Through organic growth and merger it has now expanded across the continent (from California to Canada) and even across the Atlantic to London. We should be proud of the role that Brookline played in providing this good enterprise with a base for growth and should recognize that it continues to provide value to our residents and a benefit to the Town. The proposed Warrant Articles are reasonable measures that will facilitate this important community benefit – whether it is provided by Zipcar or another car sharing service.

Please let me know if I can provide you with any additional information or answer any questions on this, or any other, subject.

Seth Kaplan

I firmly believe in the value of car sharing (really, the wikipedia entry is quite good) as a tool for reducing car ownership and usage and for boosting transit use and helping build vital urban communities.

Some members of Brookline Town Meeting have suggested that they are concerned about noisy and disruptive college students traveling to and returning from cars stored in residential areas. This is a legitimate concern – but I would point out that Zipcar (and pretty much every operation of this sort) requires that members be at least 21 years of age and having shared cars in the neighborhood has the positive effect of providing local students (and recent grads) with an alternative that allows them to avoid owning a car that will clog up local streets.




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