In the last nine months, 41,039 new vehicles were registered in Hawaii, according to the Star-Advertiser article, “Car sales rose in third quarter.”

The piece notes that the 9.1 percent gain in the islands is better than the national increase of 6.3 percent. The Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, cited in the article, says “the numbers are very encouraging.”

Really, are 41,000 more vehicles on our congested roads “very encouraging”?

Honolulu traffic

If you drive in Honolulu, this is probably a familiar sight.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Car-sharing Comes to Honolulu

As Civil Beat reported in October, the City and County of Honolulu is considering a car-sharing bill.

In short, this bill would allow the city to dedicate parking stalls for car-sharing vehicles at various price levels. It would also allow for car-sharing vehicles to park in stalls with meters without drivers needing to pay them. In turn, the car-sharing companies would pay the City and County to allow their cars to use metered spots.

Currently, only one car-sharing company is operating in Hawaii: Enterprise CarShare, with fewer than 30 vehicles. They are limited as they can only operate in privately owned parking locations that also have around-the-clock accessibility.

They are also limited as their cars have to be returned to the exact same parking stall they were taken from. It’s a useful system for people who live near those cars and only take round-trips. Essentially, car-sharing in its current form in Honolulu could be called “short term car rental.”

It’s not truly a transit option as it forces customers to bring it back to where they came from, and for the whole time it is away from it’s home, the customer gets charged. The proposed bill aims to fix that.

The Car Club Model

Imagine if cars in a car-sharing program were able to be parked anywhere in the city.

Finding a vehicle would mean looking at a smartphone app or checking a place where they’re regularly found. You use your member card or phone to unlock the car and go. When you’re done using the vehicle, you can leave it in anywhere you want, as long as it is a legal parking spot.

It’s like being part of a car club. You’re one of tens of thousands of other members, you all get to use the same few hundred cars, you only get charged for when you use them, and you can use them whenever they’re available.

This would make car-sharing part of the mix of transit options to get from point A to point B, instead  of an option for A to B that forces you to return to A again.

In the future, people could take rail and then use a car-share vehicle to drive to a meeting that might be 15-20 blocks away from the rail station. For the trip back, they might prefer to use bikeshare or to walk.

Or imagine taking the bus or a bike to a store and using car-share to bring a few bags of groceries home with you. Or driving to dinner and, after a couple drinks, having the options of bus, taxi, rail, or real-time ride-sharing apps for the trip home.

Doesn’t this add cars to the road? What about our parking spots? The company car2go, which is in many cities, uses about 300 vehicles.

To put this into perspective, look at  two of the major car-sharing companies worldwide. Zipcar has more than 870,000 members and over 10,000 vehicles. Their competitor, car2go, is poised to reach one million members by the end of the year and has around 12,500 vehicles.

In 2015, they collectively expect to be serving around two million people worldwide with a fleet of under 25,000 vehicles. That’s an incredibly low number considering the 41,039 new vehicles that were registered in Hawaii alone over the last nine months.

Of course, not everyone does away with their personal vehicles when they are members of a car-sharing program, but it does enable many families to have one fewer car or, for some, to go car-ownership free.

The University of California conducted a study that found for every vehicle in car-share system, between nine and 13 personal vehicles were ultimately shed.

If we could have those kinds of numbers in Honolulu, that might be “more encouraging” for our traffic issues.

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