Oahu drivers may soon be sharing on-street parking with a newcomer to city roads: car-sharing services like Hui or Enterprise CarShare.
The Honolulu City Council is considering a measure that would allow the Department of Transportation Services to designate both metered and unmetered on-street spaces for car-sharing companies to rent year-round as vehicle stations. Currently, the only city-owned spaces available for rent are in off-street parking facilities.
Car-sharing services first became available to Honolulu residents last year, with one of the best-known being Servco’s Hui Car Share.
Through Hui’s smartphone app, drivers 19 and older can rent vehicles by the hour or by the day, according to Hui’s website. The vehicles are currently concentrated around Kakaako, Ala Moana and downtown.
The City Council is considering a proposal to allow car-sharing companies to rent spaces where they would park vehicles for their own short-term rental services. This sign is at a privately owned parking space in Honolulu.
Courtesy of Hui Car Share
The bill would cap the total number of parking spaces available for reservation at 160, divided evenly between on-street spots and off-street lots. Car-sharing companies would pay an annual fee for each space they rent, with the price dependent on the location.
The measure’s newest version, considered during a City Council Budget Committee meeting Monday, would annually charge $4,380 for an on-street space in Waikiki, $2,475 for a space downtown and in the Civic Center area and $1,350 for a space elsewhere on Oahu. An earlier version would have charged $1,500 for any on-street spot.
Annual fees for spaces in off-street parking facilities would also vary based on location. Car-sharing companies would also pay $20 per vehicle for a sticker that would allow parking in the reserved space.
These spaces would be marked with signage warning drivers the stall is reserved. Under the bill, any car parked in a reserved space without the appropriate sticker would be subject to being towed and its owner could be fined $100 per offense.
Councilman Brandon Elefante, who co-introduced the bill with Councilman Joey Manahan, said the proposal expands on an earlier ordinance that allotted 50 off-street stalls for car-sharing because he wanted to increase the number of transportation options available.
“I definitely feel that this is another option that we can provide in a toolbox for people in our city and county — it doesn’t have to be residents, it can also be visitors,” Elefante said. “And you can rent a vehicle for minutes or hours or even, sometimes, days, that could provide another option.”
He said car-sharing companies rent the vast majority of their stations from privately owned parking lots.
Hui Marketing Manager Kristine Wada wrote in an email that car-sharing benefits residents by offering an “economical mobility option” for drivers who don’t want to buy a car or rent one for a longer period.
She said Hui wanted the option to rent on-street spaces because “customers are asking for accessible, convenient and affordable locations within walking distance of where they live or work.”
“I definitely feel that this is another option that we can provide in a toolbox for people in our city and county.” — City Councilman Brandon Elefante
But some residents say the proposal would remove much-needed parking spaces from public use, especially in congested areas like downtown or Waikiki.
Sharlene Chun-Lum, who offered written testimony opposing the proposal during an April Budget Committee meeting, said in an interview the city would be making an already terrible parking situation worse, especially after it previously converted dozens of parking spaces into Biki bike-share stations.
“For many people, like let’s say on a shopping day, you try to go into Chinatown, you just have to circle the block many times before you can find an open space,” Chun-Lum said.
In response to the concerns, Elefante said he would encourage the transportation department to pick spots that would hinder residents’ parking options the least.
Elefante said the bill already has provisions restricting the transportation department from designating more than two stalls per block for reservation and from reserving spaces on streets with tow-away zones.
Wada wrote that Servco recommended that the transportation department create new, unmetered parking spaces to not reduce the number of existing metered stalls.
Chun-Lum also said she was worried the city is losing potential revenue with the proposed fee rate.
“It takes away spaces that we need and gives them to the car-sharing company for a really big discount,” Chun-Lum said.
Elefante said the prices could be adjusted in the future, but he did not want to push car-sharing companies away by setting fees too high.
He said he hoped that the bill, which cleared the Budget Committee on Monday, would be scheduled for a second reading and public hearing in front of the full council during its June 5 meeting.
Elefante said if the bill is approved by the council and signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the transportation department would have 180 days to develop rules and analyze street parking.
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Joel Lau is a Civil Beat summer news intern. He grew up on Oahu and graduated from Hawaii Baptist Academy.
He is a student at Boston University, majoring in journalism and political science, and plans to return there for his sophomore year in September. Follow him on Twitter @JoelLau808.