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Zipcar Asking Providence for Free Parking, Subsidies

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 

Zipcar signs at a private lot in Providence - the company is now seeking at least 13 unpaid spots from the city.

Zipcar, the car-sharing service which came to Providence in 2011 -- and was purchased by car rental company Avis Budget Group in 2013 -- is looking to formalize an agreement with the City of Providence that would provide them with a minimum of 13 free prime parking spaces in the city over the next three years, as well as municipal marketing and co-branding.

Contained in the proposal is a stipulation from Zipcar that "in consideration of the City providing 13 parking spaces...Zipcar will waive the annual membership free for up to 40 City employees that become Zipcar members during the term of [the] Agreement," which would be from 2014 through 2017. Zipcar will make no payment to the cash strapped Capital City under the agreement and the value to the car-sharing service is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Providence City Councilman Bryan Principe said, "That requirement raises a flag for me. Now we're soliciting our employees -- about 4,000 of them -- and giving free advertising to a Fortune 500 company?"

"I have an issue with signing up city employees," said City Councilwoman Sabina Matos, noting, "We want to see any benefits from this go to the taxpayers instead."

Currently, Zipcar has a fleet of 70 cars at 30 locations across the city. A spokesperson from Mayor Angel Taveras' office did not return a request for comment on the proposal.  

See Zipcar Proposal HERE

The "Zipcar for Municipalities" Program Agreement was presented to the Providence City Council in a letter dated January 9 by Providence Director of Sustainability Sheila Dormody, and has been considered by the City Council Ways and Means Committee at two meetings since then.

According to Committee Chairman David Salvatore, it will be on next Monday's committee agenda. "Some committee members have outstanding questions that they'd like answers to," said Salvatore.

Preference for Brown, RISD and Johnson and Wales Students

Brown University

In addition to requiring that the City provide "highly visible, dedicated, and reserved parking locations" at no charge to Zipcar, who could request additional spots to the 13 outlined in the agreement to "meet demand", the company said it would extend eligibility to "18+ employees and students of Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Johnson and Wales" -- and residents of the local community that reside and or near the city that are 21+ that are Zipcars members that are "in good standing."

"The thing that gets me the most, if you're at Brown or RISD, you're 18, you're good," said Principe. "I called them on that. Say you have a high school graduate, who might be going to CCRI, or PC -- or a grad who's going to Stanford, but home on break. It doesn't make sense."

Principe continued, "Most of the Brown and RISD students aren't from RI. So it's good enough for out of staters, but not our own kids?"

Zipcar's Providence Presence

"When Zipcar launched in Providence in June 2011 we entered into an agreement with the city," said Zipcar Communications Coordinator CJ Himberg. "The agreement allowed us to expand on the programs we had established with local universities in the area (including Salve Regina University and Roger Williams University), and offer car sharing more broadly to residents in the city."

"Today, in addition the on-street locations we have a total of nearly 60 vehicles in more than 25 private parking locations in the Providence area," continued Himberg. "A new agreement will enable us to continue to provide on-street locations to members in the Providence area."

Saul Kaplan with the Business Innovation Factory, who penned the article Dear Avis, Please Don't Screw Up Zipcar, said, "Rhode Island should put up a sign at the border that says, Innovate Here. Zipcar is exactly the kind of innovative business model that should be encouraged and welcomed in Providence. Car sharing provides new affordable and sustainable transportation options to more of our citizens."

Councilman Principe acknowledged that while he had reservations with certain elements of the proposal, he was supportive of the concept of Zipcar. "I'll say straight out, I like Zipcar as a company. It's a good resource for people who don't have cars, or need another car," said Principe.  "I'm not against the idea of them, or the company itself. "

In 2013, Fortune Magazine listed Zipcar parent company Avis Budget Group at #350 on the Fortune 500 list -- up from #418 the year before.

"Am I open to this idea, and expanding its reach? Yes," said Principe. "But could it perhaps be another company, an upstart company willing to pay us, versus regulating the process."

More Concerns, Clarifications

City Councilman Luis Aponte said that he was closely monitoring the proposal, and parking issues facing the city.

"One of the things we asked the City was how many cars in Zipcar's fleet are registered in Providence," said Aponte. "I was told by [City Internal Auditor Matthew] Clarkin last week that Zipcar paid $109,000 in property taxes in Providence last year."

Aponte pointed out that Providence had included parking spaces as part of an eleven year, $31.5 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between Brown University and the city, which contained in the terms an extended lease of 250 city parking spots to Brown.

Clarkin noted that the maximum amount a metered spot in Providence can generate a year is $3,750 -- but that that Zipcar spaces aren't metered. "Maybe one is," said Clarkin, who said that the actual parking spot value in the city would depend on how long the spot was out of the city's control.

"That value to the city is if someone's paying for parking at that meter the whole day," Principle noted.

In Bend, Oregon, the National Main Street Center valued an on-street parking space at $30,000 in sales. Last June, Boston.com reported the sale of two prime location parking spaces in Back Bay for $560,000.

"I like the concept of the Zipcar business model," said Matos. "Not everyone needs to have a car. My questions are around the fact that it is frustrating that Providence doesn't have enough parking spaces, and now we're looking at reserving street spaces for Zipcar."
 

 

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Comments:

ZIP THIS!..YOU CITY COUNCIL PEOPLE WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR THE TAXPAYER? SINCE OUR OVER TAXED PROPERTY IS NEVER GOING TO COME DOWN..EVER! HOW ABOUT YOU THROW US TAXED BURDENED RESIDENTS A FRICKIN'BONE BY LETTING US PARK OUR CARS OVERNIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR OVER TAXED PROPERTY WITHOUT PARKING TICKETS OR YEARLY FEES..IT'S THE LEAST YOU CAN DO...AND PLEASE SAVE ME THE PUBLIC SAFETY REASONS BS SPEECH ON WHY PARKING OVERNIGHT IS PROHIBITED.IT'S AN OUTRAGE THAT THIS PRACTICE HAS GONE ON ALL THESE YEARS! YOU PEOPLE LOSE SIGHT US FOLK WHO PAY ALL THE BILLS ROUND HERE. FROM 2 AM TO 4 AM,A LOUSY,STINKIN' 2 HOURS YOU GOTTA BANG US WITH PARKING TICKETS? REALLY? FOR WHAT POSSIBLE REASON? YOU PEOPLE KILL ME,WHO THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE!? AND WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO FOR ANY OF US!

Comment #1 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 03 11

Why not, at city expense, turn the ground floor of the old Fleet/Superman building into a ZipCar Garage, lol?

Comment #2 by John McGrath on 2014 03 11

Yo- JOJO, very well put!

Would someone pleeze explain whatever happened to private enterprise? You know, when people invested "their" money, assume the risk in the hopes of achieving a significant reward. Seemed like a fairly successful formula for a long time.

Now it appears, more and more businesses have no hesitance asking for public subsidies in one form or another. And the publicly elected nitwits that represent us actually consider and often times agree to them. This is beyond ridiculous.

I'm anxiously waiting to see how the ethically challenged Speaker Fox finagles some tax credit deal for the Superman building. We all know it's coming, it's just a matter of when. Now there's someone who should be looking out from the inside of a set of bars.

Comment #3 by Walter Miller on 2014 03 11

Parking in downtown Providence is a joke. Everyone I know avoids going there because of the inevitable parking ticket or some sort of arcane metering system. All important meetings happen elsewhere.

Providence becomes wackier every single day.

Comment #4 by dan darnell on 2014 03 11

Let Zipcar make a deal with private sector parking. Why should the taxpayers lose more parking so public sector employees can get free zipcars.

Comment #5 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 11

With Providence rapidly becoming one of the most business UNfriendly place to do business, its no wonder tax breaks/incentives and subsidies are making the news these days. How else can a a business survive around here?

Comment #6 by David Beagle on 2014 03 11

Fleece the taxpayers - again. What has capitalism come to?

Comment #7 by Joan Overcash on 2014 03 11

Zipcar benefits taxpayers how?

Didn't they finally allow over night parking to residents at a cost of $100-$200 a year?

Zipcar wants specific spaces and wants to pay NOTHING? What happens when someone parks in a Zipcar space - they would be towed so some spoiled brat can zip home.

Zipcar is no bargain either.

Comment #8 by Jim D on 2014 03 11

I want to have zipcars as a functional successful business in Rhode Island. What I don't understand is why they wouldn't come to terms with private companies, or parking lots for spaces. The mood among the taxpayers is not good. Providence and Rhode Island should be enacting pro business policies across the board, not picking winners and losers. The RIEDC and the PEDB have done enough damage and given enough money to pet projects, political cronies and failed business'.

Comment #9 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 12




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