Greater Greater Washington

Fleet share can save DC more money

DC can kill two political birds with one stone: Save money, and respond to public frustration about official vehicles, by aggressively replacing most government vehicles with fleet sharing.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

At the Council hearing on SUVgate on March 7, DPW Director Bill Howland said that if he had a "magic wand," he would take away almost all dedicated agency vehicles and replace them with fleet share.

How does DPW's fleet share work? Basically, it's Zipcar for DC employees. Actually, that's exactly what it is, since it's run by Zipcar. DC pays $115-125 per vehicle, per month, and Zipcar manages each vehicle's use. Government employees have a special reservation system, and special cards to unlock the vehicles.

In 2008 and 2009, DC replaced 360 individual vehicles with just 58 shared vehicles. DC saved about $1 million a year by doing this.

Let's give Howland his magic wand. Ask DPW to review its inventory of official vehicles and identify each one that has to remain dedicated to one person or agency. DPW should release a report to the Council and the public about each one, with an explanation of why it needs to be a dedicated vehicle.

Then, for all the others, switch them out for fleet share. Even if just 2 dedicated vehicles turn into 1 fleet share vehicle, it saves money. Plus, since Zipcar has a certain amount of fixed cost to run its systems, it ought to be able to give DC a bit better of a rate per car for the next few hundred fleet share vehicles.

Some DC government agencies, where one facility is far from others, might not lend themselves to fleet share. But DC has been consolidating many agencies into a number of buildings around the District, most of which are also right by Metro stations.

By reducing the numbers of vehicles the District owns, it would also cut down on parking needs. At buildings where part of the garage is commercial, like at the Reeves Center, each space not being used by DC means another space that can be rented out to others daily or monthly, saving even more money.

Plus, why not let the general public rent out fleet share vehicles on weekends? DC has a bunch of fleet share vehicles in the garage at the Reeves Center, for instance, of which very few are probably used on weekends. Meanwhile, there's plenty of weekend demand at 14th and U, perhaps more than on weekdays.

The Reeves Center garage is already open to the public as well. Let most but not all DC fleet share vehicles turn into regular Zipcars just for the weekend. DC could run this as a pilot at the Reeves Center, the most obvious spot, to figure out how well this works and whether it's worth expanding to other facilities.

This year is the ideal time to do this. There's tremendous voter outrage over the existing official vehicles. Howland, Mayor Gray, and the DC Council would find plenty of public support for any effort to reduce the size of the District's fleet and save money.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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@David "Actually, that's exactly what it is, since it's run by Zipcar."

Given it's run by Zipcar, it's probably not a viable option since it would have at least a tinge of perceived impropriety ... even if a major shareholder of Zipcar, the former directore of DDOT is now 'former'. Now, the District negotiating a similar deal with GM or Ford or whoever, would maybe work.

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

@Lance: How do you know someone in the District government isn't a former employee of GM or Ford?

I say put it out for competitive bids. Zipcar could bid, as could Hertz's car sharing service and any ones I haven't heard about.

by Tim on Apr 5, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

$115-$125? That's a bargain by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, I find it hard to believe that Zipcar could even come close to turning a profit at those rates. Insurance probably costs the city that much alone.

by andrew on Apr 5, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

@Lance

DC already has fleetshare. Or were you suggesting they scrap the whole current system and go with something else?

Also I don't know if there are any other companies that are geared up to do car sharing.

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

@lance; you forget. this plan is just more evidence of the corruption of Vince Gray. zipcar getting a contract? clearly he is in cohorts with Klein. Oh, wait, this was happening in 2008?

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Tim 'How do you know someone in the District government isn't a former employee of GM or Ford?"

It's not about someone being a 'former employee' ... it's about someone being a current major shareholder. While Klein was DDOT director there was a lot of talk about the impropriety of someone being in a position to profit from making the District an unfriendly place to own a car implementing policies that were, in fact, making the District an unfriendly place to own a car.

Yes, he's gone now. But I think giving Zip Car that contract would re-open a lot of questions. Too bad this wasn't looked at more closely while the situation was occuring. Everyone was talking about it. I don't remember seeing an article here about this conflict of interest ... maybe I missed it ...

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

The CC won't like the lack of pimped out rides

by TGEoA on Apr 5, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

@Lance

OK, so let's see... the city pays a low price for vehicles per month, and ends up saving $1 million a year. But woah woah we better CAREFULLY examine what's going on here to make sure things are on the up and up!

Seriously? This is what you're worried about?

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

@andrew

The cost is just for the system. I'm pretty sure DC gov't still owns the vehicles.

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

@MLD, right, but DC only has to own 1/3 as many vehicles, saving far more than the $120/month cost.

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Lance -- whether or not Klein was at DDOT when the initial fleet share plan was installed, he's not there now, and he's not there specifically because Gray got rid of him. I'm not sure how a new expansion of the program would involve a conflict of interest.

Also, could you explain how ZipCar managing a fleet of DC government vehicles is "implementing policy unfriendly to owning a car?" It seems like the government owning fewer cars would lead to more space on the road for private cars, thus making the road friendlier for car owners.

Or am I missing something?

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

@Jacques

Yeah, andrew was wondering how zipcar could make any money with those kinds of rates. The answer is that they don't own/maintain/insure the vehicles, DC does.

That's a reason why it wouldn't really work to have these as zipcars on the weekends - probably much more expensive to insure vehicles for everyone to drive around than it is for just DC employees. DC may even self-insure.

Fleetshare is a big no-brainer though.

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport

Lance: I can't see how this would be seen as improper given (a) Klein and Gray are certainly not friends, IIRC
(b) the current scandal is about fancy rides for DC govt. Go to Zipcar and you immediately remove the problem
(c) It doesnt matter if Klein makes money, only that the city saves money. If it doesnt, then you have a problem.
(d) An additional bonus with this system is that Zipcar will be doing all the tracking of usage etc. This should be public information, and should make it harder for DC employees to use cars for improper purposes

by SJE on Apr 5, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

@Jacques, 'Also, could you explain how ZipCar managing a fleet of DC government vehicles is "implementing policy unfriendly to owning a car?" It seems like the government owning fewer cars would lead to more space on the road for private cars, thus making the road friendlier for car owners.

Or am I missing something?

Yes, you're missing something. Klein's doing things like encouraging biking on the city's streets so that it becomes harder to circulate are actions that are 'car hater' (as David would put it) policies ...which serve to push people to get rid of their cars and, 'lo and behold', get a Zip car membership instead for those times when you abosolutely need a car. Brilliant, huh?

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

While Klein was DDOT director there was a lot of talk about the impropriety of someone being in a position to profit from making the District an unfriendly place to own a car implementing policies that were, in fact, making the District an unfriendly place to own a car.

Yes, there were a lot of silly, disingenuous arguments that were made back then. They're even sillier now.

BTW, I hear interim DDOT director Terry Bellamy drives a car to work. Surely this is a major conflict of interest.

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

So you are paying $120 a month to manage the car. DC buys and insures it. Who pays gas?

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

Not to go all meta but someone argued in another thread that Lance often has an interesting, contrarian perspective to lend to these discussions--and I absolutely agree with that.

But I wish that he'd flag some of his comments that are made purely for the purposes of winding folks up. Maybe sign those with "Lancelot Swift" or something...

:)

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

This is a great idea. It saves money, it frees up parking spaces, it saves time, and - with the use of hybrids - it cuts pollution and saves gasoline!

It's such a no brainer that only Lance could be opposed to it. ;-)

by Mike S. on Apr 5, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

I'd love to see what government documents "accidentally" get lost in such shared vehicles...

by Jasper on Apr 5, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

@Lance -- whether it's brilliant or not, it doesn't change the fact that Klein is not the head of DDOT.

I also don't think that DC should make other purchasing or policy decisions based on the personal like or dislike of other shareholders in companies.

Speaking personally as a car owner, I think that this city is far more manageable and pleasant to navigate when I have other options for how to get around. Including metro, buses, cabs, and (shudder) bikeshare.

And having lots of other cars on the road does a lot more to make driving unpleasant for me, than having a few (or even a bunch of) bicycles sharing it.

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Andrew,

If you read the article, the ~$120 cost per month isn't the cost to own and operate, it is the monthly liscensing fee per vehicle for the use of Zipcar's web based fleet share system and it was an agreed upon "lower" amount because of the pilot nature of the program.

None of the insurance or maintenance or gas costs are mentioned, nor does this include the ~1300 per vehicle to outfit each vehicle with the required equipment, none of this being mentioned above, you had to go dig for it in the linked article.

I think fleet share is a great way to go, but there needs to be a competitive BID. It was atrocious that this was simply given to Zipcar by DDOT head and recent Zipcar exec Gabe Klein. It reeks of malfeascance.

Competitively bid it out and be done with it.

by freely on Apr 5, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

Lance, no one is a shareholder in zipcar since it doesn't have shares. It is not a publicly traded company. I don't know of any evidence that Gabe Klein owns any of zipcar or stands to profit from them if they make money, seeing as how he left the company many years ago to start his own.

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

"Yes, you're missing something. Klein's doing things like encouraging biking on the city's streets so that it becomes harder to circulate are actions that are 'car hater' (as David would put it) policies ...which serve to push people to get rid of their cars and, 'lo and behold', get a Zip car membership instead for those times when you abosolutely need a car. Brilliant, huh?"

Lance, to paraphrase, it appears that your theory is that Klein encouraged biking in the city in order to make things more difficult for drivers, in the hope that some drivers would become so frustrated that they would give up owning cars altogether and instead use Zipcars, thereby profiting him and allowing him to finally purchase that Carribbean island he'd had his eye on (OK, I made up the last part).

It also appears your tinfoil hat isn't working well these days.

by dcd on Apr 5, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

@freely: "Competitively bid it out and be done with it."

+1

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 3:08 pm • linkreport

freely, how do you know it wasn't competitively bid? It sounds like Dan Tangherlini did a lot of the searching (not Klein) and that they looked at a lot of software providers (which is what they bought from Zipcar).

"We had been looking at many different ways to make the motor pool more accessible and easier to use. And we arrived at partnering with a technology leader, such as Zipcar, and finding that it had developed the technology, process and system that allows you to access your vehicles and really maximize the utilization rate of those vehicles over time," said Dan Tangherlini, city administrator for Washington, D.C.

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

Freely: Bidding sure. But Gabe Klein wasn't responsible. First of all, this is the Department of Public Works (DPW), not DDOT. Gabe was head of DDOT. Howland was head of DPW. When this program was instituted, Howland was head of DPW and set it up, while Gabe was not yet head of DDOT and didn't set it up. He wasn't at Zipcar anymore, either.

Basically, you have a guy who used to work for Zipcar, but left before fleet share was set up, and who later on worked for DC, but in a different agency and long after the fleet share was set up. Now, he works for neither Zipcar nor DC.

But your comment proves one thing: If you keep saying something, no matter how ridiculous it is or how many people rebut it, someone will start to believe it. Lance has figured that out.

by David Alpert on Apr 5, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

If you keep saying something, no matter how ridiculous it is or how many people rebut it, someone will start to believe it.

And that someone is Michael Perkins (I'm kidding, I'm kidding).

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 3:15 pm • linkreport

"But your comment proves one thing: If you keep saying something, no matter how ridiculous it is or how many people rebut it, someone will start to believe it"

SmartGrowth followers! The master control unit has spoken!

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

@Alpert,

You are right, it was DPW. And it was after zipcar when he was working a street cart service selling food to the lunch crowd. How could I have forgotten that hilarious gem:)

My point still stands. It isn't the ~120 dollar a month pancea you made it out to be as there are significant other costs involved, and it needs to be competively bid.

by freely on Apr 5, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

charlie, freely: Have you ever thought, "You know, self, wouldn't it be nice to be the sort of person that could ever say something without trying to put someone down in the process? Oh well, maybe once I graduate from junior high school that might happen."

by David Alpert on Apr 5, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

Lance, no one is a shareholder in zipcar since it doesn't have shares. It is not a publicly traded company

Sure, you can own shares of a privately-traded company. Most corporations are set up this way. Unless the company has a single owner, it's got shares. You just can't buy 'em on a stock exchange.

by andrew on Apr 5, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

Yeesh.

1. DPW manages DC's fleet, not DDOT.
2. The DC Fleet Share program started both before Gabe Klein was appointed to head DDOT, and well after he had left ZipCar.
3. Competitive bidding is great, but you can only have one system for the entire fleet. If you have multiple systems that don't interact, you will lose the very benefits of sharing the fleet. The system is somewhat of a natural monopoly.
4. The cost per license is relevant because the whole point is to shrink the size of the fleet. You'll gladly pay the operator's fee because that fee then enables you to get rid of several vehicles, netting you a nice savings.

by Alex B. on Apr 5, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

@Mike S. 'It's such a no brainer that only Lance could be opposed to it. ;-)'

I didn't say I was opposed to it. Just opposed to doing this through Zip Car.

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

And by "put down" what do you mean exactly? Tell the truth?

What, was gabe klein not a street vendor for 2 years before his 2 year stint at DDOT?

by freely on Apr 5, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

Although I am slow to give anything even indirectly attached to Klein a second look, this may not be that bad of an idea and this is coming from someone who thinks the system is a rip-off since I can rent a car over a 3-day weekend for 60 bucks.

But since we are now (conveniently I might add) criticizing this administration in part based on the follies of previous ones, maybe the city should review it vehicle policies. Whether ZipCar is the best option is questionable.

@freely, please tell us you're pulling our legs? Gabe surely wasn't a food truck vendor before he became head of DDOT, was he?

by HogWash on Apr 5, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

freely, I would not call him a "street vendor" as much as an entrepreneur who ran a street vendor company. It's like calling Henry Ford a mechanic or Bill Gates a computer programmer. And you used that term in a derogatory way.

andrew, you're right. Klein could own private shares. Lance has not proven that he does. + everything David A said about the decision making and timeline.

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

@freely, please tell us you're pulling our legs? Gabe surely wasn't a food truck vendor before he became head of DDOT, was he?

@HogWash,

Actually, what's even more insidious is that Klein *became* head of DDOT with the specific goal of making it more difficult to drive to various lunch spots around the city, forcing busy businessmen and -women to resort to eating at lunch carts--some of which Klein may very well have continued to own shares in.

Brilliant, huh?

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

From Klein's website:

Gabe was a Co-Founder of On The Fly, an innovative, boutique food-service company with 4 different businesses under one roof, personified by the next-generation electric “smartkarts” that he and his team designed over a 6 month period and launched in 2007. On The Fly’s smartkarts complement smart growth, and literally bring high quality natural foods to residents, workers and visitors in densely trafficked areas, typically near transit.

You may remember the vehicles:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gandoza/5549818104/

In any case, clearly the idea of appointing entrepreneurs to DC government positions has been discredited: why Klein was appointed when there must have been half a dozen Comcast VPs available for the position will always be a mystery.

Now let's get back to appointing Brezhnev-era government aparatchiks, I say!

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

Oboe for tinfoil hat comment of the day!

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

@oboe, your sarcasm aside, if he was a food truck vendor, he was just that - a food truck vendor. Frankly, I've never heard of "On the Fly" until now. Are they still in business?

Based on your recent posting, Gabe cofounded OTF and was head of DDOT two years later? That's rather impressive.

BTW, and the problem with business execs is what again? Oh wait, as long as the field is related to smart growth/eco it's no problem.

by HogWash on Apr 5, 2011 4:15 pm • linkreport

@oboe, your sarcasm aside, if he was a food truck vendor, he was just that - a food truck vendor.

Reminds me of Steve Jobs' famous challenge to Pepsi executive John Sculley: "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

So before coming to DDOT Gabe Klein started a pioneering premium food truck business in DC. Since then, premium food trucks have become a major new industry in the city, providing much needed jobs to DC residents in the middle of a recession. And this is a problem how?

by Phil on Apr 5, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert 'But your comment proves one thing: If you keep saying something, no matter how ridiculous it is or how many people rebut it, someone will start to believe it. Lance has figured that out.'

And if history gets re-written enough times on GGW, people will forget what actually happened:

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/27/AR2009042703376.html?hpid=sec-metro

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 4:25 pm • linkreport

Lance: What history? Klein wasn't involved in the decision.

I know, I know, any policy that involved reducing cars must be attacked, no matter what.

by David Alpert on Apr 5, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport

Zipcar has filed for an IPO.

http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1131457/000095013010001923/0000950130-10-001923-index.htm

dated from last summer; I assume they are putting it off until the market is ok.

According to the Post link, Jim Graham said Gabe owned "5% of Zipcar." No other evidence for that.

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 4:50 pm • linkreport

@David

Okay, maybe we can't directly link Mayor Fenty giving a government car-sharing program contract to ZipCar when ZipCar hadn't done that type of thing before to this scale ...

BUT, while Klein was at the helm of DDOT a number of policies were effected that could directly benefit ZipCar such as giving them free on-street parking, DDOT testifying in support of PUD amenities that provided free car-sharing parking spaces, DDOT supporting the ZRR recommendations that would require developers to provide free car-sharing parking spaces if they built on-site parking, etc.

Would you disagree with any of this?

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

*Okay, maybe we can't directly link Klein to Mayor Fenty giving a government car-sharing program contract to ZipCar when ZipCar hadn't done that type of thing before to this scale ...

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

Lance: DDOT had been supporting these things before Klein and did after. It's general DDOT policy and that didn't change. Also, the car sharing rules specifically state that any car sharing company can come in and use them.

by David Alpert on Apr 5, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

@David, What other car-sharing companies operate in DC?

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Sorry, apparently there are doing it. Asking price: 600 million.

http://blogs.reuters.com/columns/2011/04/04/zipcars-better-mousetrap-may-give-ipo-a-snap/

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Lance, when companies bring in new hire with ties to certain industries, they often sign disclosures or recuse themselves from any dealings w/said company.

According to the link you provided, Klein exercised the appropriate precautions to ensure he, as head of DDOT, acted w/in the confines of the law.

by HogWash on Apr 5, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

@Lance
when ZipCar hadn't done that type of thing before to this scale

Right, because ZipCar had never managed a huge fleet of 58 cars before!

BUT, while Klein was at the helm of DDOT a number of policies were effected that could directly benefit ZipCar such as giving them free on-street parking

I'm fairly certain there were on-street carshare parking places in DC before December 2008.

by MLD on Apr 5, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

It does seem that Klein did own part of zipcar, though

"Mafara Hobson, the mayor's spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail that Klein still holds a financial interest in the company but that "the ethics office said the amount wasn't a significant amount and therefore not a conflict of interest."

And the article goes to great lengths to explain how much was done to keep Klein insulated from the decision and from any dealings with zipcar. If DC were to refuse to do business with any entity that an employee might have an interest in, we couldn't do business with anyone. That's why we have an ethics office and a process. Sounds like everything was done above board.

But as to your claim that they had never done anything like this before, I disagree. This is exactly what they do. They manage a car fleet.

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

""the ethics office said the amount wasn't a significant amount and therefore not a conflict of interest"

I'd be curious to know how the ethics office can value a private company.

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 5:09 pm • linkreport

Well, before ZipCar, there was Flexcar (which merged with Zip in 2008 I think). I only know this because I keep calling it Flexcar, and no one knows what I am talking about, even though it's only been a few years.

by greent on Apr 5, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

I would guess they looked at the percentage of ZipCar that Klein owned. Given that he was a VP for, what, three years I'd imagine he didn't have a massive equity stake, but who knows.

In any case, the ethics office vetted it, so there you go. I suppose one could argue the ethics office was also in on the scam. Perhaps we should incorporate an ethics office to vet the ethics office.

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 5:17 pm • linkreport

Looking at the list of shareholders in the S1, they only list entities known to own more than 5% of the shares. I had forgotten Steve Case was an investor.

Klein is not listed. 54% of the shares are owned by "other"; 210 total shareholders. "Other" does not look it includes three venture funds, so it is probably other employees and smaller investors.

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 5:20 pm • linkreport

@Oboe; I could be wrong here, but wasn't he the "founder" of the DC zipcar -- of their three primary markets.

Even 1% of a 600 million valuation is pretty nice.

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

@Lance "what other car-sharing companies operate in DC?"

As far as I can see, all of the major ones. ZipCar and the now-merged FlexCar are the only major commercial car-sharing outfits out there, and definitely were 2-2 ago. Most other car-sharing outfits are non-profits or small-scale companies.

But I still don't understand, Lance -- would you rather have more car-sharing services operating in the city, taking more valuable road space away from car owners, or is it worse to have just one? Other than the anti-Klein complaint, it's hard to keep up with your positions.

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

@ Jacques; actually, both Hertz and Enterprise are now in the car-sharing market. Daimler also has a big test going on in Austin.

by charlie on Apr 5, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

edit: "and definitely were 2-3 years ago."

It seems that Hertz has recently gotten into the car-sharing game, but outside of a few cities, they're mostly on university campuses.

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 5:25 pm • linkreport

Thanks @charlie -- but I still can't tell if Lance wants more "car-owner-infringing" car-share services, or less.

by Jacques on Apr 5, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport

@charlie:

At the end of 2002, Gabe was brought in by Robin Chase, the Founder of Zipcar in Boston, to take a new concept in the U.S, “carsharing,” and build a viable business in Washington D.C. and help prove the carsharing model. As Regional Vice President, Gabe took the challenge seriously and took an unheard of concept and brand, and within 4 years had grown membership by over 1000%, had 500 vehicles in the D.C. region, and achieved profitable operating results along with the highest consumer quality scores in the company. Gabe was the first to develop strong public-private partnerships with local governments, regional transportation agencies, as well as all major universities in a market, very instrumental in Zipcar’s growth. At the end of Gabe’s tenure at Zipcar, Washington D.C. was the nation’s largest carsharing city by membership and vehicles, had purchased Flexcar, and modeled for international expansion.

(http://gabeklein.com/bio)

I would not turn up my nose at 1% of $6M. No idea what the percentage would be, though; maybe he had a .000000000000001% stake purchased through ESP. :)

by oboe on Apr 5, 2011 5:44 pm • linkreport

David, good idea. In the meantime, how many non-shared vehicles does the city own, and for what purposes?

by Gavin on Apr 5, 2011 6:32 pm • linkreport

Go to the Costco in Arlington any given weekday during lunch time. It is insane the # of dc gov tags are parked in the lot while city employees hit up the free samples.

by TGEoA on Apr 5, 2011 7:39 pm • linkreport

Sharing DC fleet cars with the public would be a great synergy and cost-saving idea, and even better, it's actually a proven concept! In the Bay Area, City Carshare manages a portion of the City of Berkeley's fleet. City employees use the cars M-F 9-5, then they open up to the general public on nights and weekends (which is when carshare demand is highest). So the City not only gets to reduce its fleet size, but saves even more $$ by having others use the cars.

I don't know what the exact ownership and financial details are, but surely this shows that something can be worked out that benefits everyone.

by RichardatCourthouse on Apr 5, 2011 8:48 pm • linkreport

Did any other city where ZipCar operates contract with it to manage it's carpool?

Replacing 360 vehicles with 58 should have saved a lot more than $1 million.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 5, 2011 9:21 pm • linkreport

'So the City not only gets to reduce its fleet size, but saves even more $$ by having others use the cars.'

There's a serious flaw in this logic. A car is an expendable good. It's not the car you're buying but the miles it'll deliver. There's a reason police departments only hold on to their cars a few years and cab owners end up replacing engines and parts far more often than the average individual. The gains in sharing out a city owned vehicle are short lived ... replacement/general rebuild of the fleet just happens sooner. Add to that the fact that employees may need to keep the tools of their trade in the car, and you're speaking pure ludicrousy in making this proposal. And holding up Berkeley (or any place in the Bay Area) as a place to emulate is laughable. I've lived over there. You have a bunch of spoiled brats living the high life on artificially inflated salaries congratulating themselves on their altruism while most of the population there lives what here on the east coast would be considered sub-par, at best. Please ... don't hold out Berkeley as a serious example. In the Bay Area they're known for their excentricity ... and the place is mess.

by Lance on Apr 5, 2011 10:31 pm • linkreport

Lance, except that you aren't just buying the car. You're buying the place where you park it too - and that doesn't depreciate per mile driven. Insurance doesn't really go up with mileage either (which is a shame frankly). And cars depreciate even when they aren't being driven. Rust waits for no man. So increased driving does increase depreciation, but you can probably capture more in revenue than it costs you.

by David C on Apr 5, 2011 10:43 pm • linkreport

Lance, the entire model of carsharing services is based on the idea that time in cars is worth money. As David C says, that's because parking space is worth money and cars depreciate with time. People who don't need cars most of the time are flocking to carsharing for that very reason- they can save lots of money. Now, no one's forcing you to join or invest in it, but I might just buy some shares of Zipcar when it goes public and you're free to laugh at me if it nosedives.

On the topic of Berkeley, I've lived there, so I don't need a lesson about it from you. Sure, it's a pretty liberal place, but planning-wise it's not that extreme- for example, a BRT project was recently canceled because a group of residents didn't want to give up any street parking or lanes for cars. Heck, you might fit right in.

And I'm going to ignore your diatribe on brats, inflated salaries, sub-par conditions, and messiness since you've given no evidence of what you're talking about and how on earth it relates to a money-saving carsharing partnership. Let's keep this thread on-topic and herring-free, shall we? If you have evidence that Berkeley's carsharing program doesn't work or hasn't saved the city money, I'd love to hear it.

by RichardatCourthouse on Apr 6, 2011 12:41 am • linkreport

@Lance -- Regardless of who manages it or how, the idea that large organization like city governments should have a fleet of cars that is managed in a central fashion is pretty standard public management practice. Are you seriously arguing that every city agency where people ever need a car for official business needs a one or more dedicated car on the off chance they need one that day? That's absurd. Fleet management so there aren't lots of cars sitting around unused most of the time is basic good public management.

You've pretty much lost all credibility by letting your dislike of one person and possibly one system reject sound management of city resources in general.

And I can't figure out how my decision not to replace my car, but use ZipCar in any way hurts you and your ability to drive if you need to or want to. Or makes the city less car friendly. In a neighborhood where street parking is scarce and off street parking is even scarcer why would you prefer that I take up a spot on the street for a car I only used a couple of times a week? The spot I don't use is available for someone else to use. That's a good thing for other people who drive or have visitors who drive. How exactly have I hurt you or other drivers with my choice?

by Kate on Apr 6, 2011 3:34 am • linkreport

@DavidC; those comments make no sense in this argument.

1. The city is still buying the cars and assuming all risks of depreciation

2. The city is still paying the cost of parking

The idea of other people using the cars is just a wet dream, and doesn't make sense.

Plenty of ways to save money on fleets -- and keeping the cars for an additional 2-3 years in certainly one of them. However, as we've seen before, governmental entities in the US are incapable of maintenance. Given what I've seen of Zipcars, they seem to be in the same state (one year old cars that are making some really strange engine sounds.)

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

charlie, how is this any different than what zipcar does. They buy the cars and they pay the cost of parking and somehow they make money. Basically, the city would just be doing what zipcar does - only they'd be doing it part of the day.

So, I don't see how your points matter at all.

And I do think it makes sense to monetize an unused resource like a car or the parking space it sits in.

by David C on Apr 6, 2011 9:34 am • linkreport

Well, for one thing, Zipcar has been losing money doing exactly that.

And we're talking about the government fleet issue. The DC government is stuck with depreciation, insurance, storage and (perhaps) gas. Zipcar will handle the rental system.

Outsouring the profit, keeping the losses? I get it that if you can reduce the number of cars you can save money, but if you're interested in saving money, building a program to keep the cars running 10+ years (instead of 2 year leases) would be better.

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

Almost every fleet I am aware of rotates the cars out after 2-3 years. It's just not worth the maintenance cost to drive them until they die.

by Phil on Apr 6, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

@ Phil; or those cops want shiny new cars. Or the finance companies won't do a purchase. Or the car companies would rather sell their bottom end cars to fleet sales.

A modern car can last 10 years, 250,00 miles easily. I'd agree that it might not make sense for a city to keep it for 10 years, but keeping it 5-6 (double what they have now) is a no brainer.

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

charlie, I can't believe I have to say this, but DC should only do this if it makes them money.

They can rent the cars and make $X or not rent them and make $0. Renting them will involve cost $Y of the additional depreciation and operating costs per mile, and possibly positive externalities $Z of better service to citizens (or else why are they renting the cars) and/or reduced car ownership.

Doing this makes sense if X+Z >= Y. It does not otherwise. If you are arguing that Y is greater than X+Z, without knowing the value of any of those three variables, than that is pretty stupid.

by David C on Apr 6, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

@DavidC; we're not that far apart on this.

But they are not RENTING the cars. They are still buying them. That's the difference is out viewpoints.

With the zipcar system, they are going to more effectively use them -- and hopefully the reduction in number of cars (with associated costs) is going to be greater than zipcar management payouts.

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

Rent (v)

1. pay to use somebody's property: to occupy somebody else's property or use somebody else's equipment in return for regular payments
2. allow use of property for payment: to allow somebody to occupy property or use equipment in return for regular payments

I'm using rent in the 2nd meaning, not the first. DC would rent the cars by allowing others to use them in return for pay.

by David C on Apr 6, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

@charlie

Do you have any source for your assertion that the DC fleet cars are only kept for 2-3 years?

Also this doesn't apply to cop cars.

The economics of this are pretty simple - if you can cut the number of fleet cars you have by 1/3, you break even on a $20K price purchase if you are keeping the cars for 5 years. If the cars don't last that long as part of the fleet then you are saving even more through this process.

Just do the simple math. It's not "hopefully" you save money, it's you absolutely will save money unless you can't reduce your fleet at all. And DC reduced 360 cars to 58!

by MLD on Apr 6, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

@DavidC; the "rent" idea is Alpert's. For insurance and scheduling issues, not a practical use of the cars, and DC isn't planning on doing this.

I agree it might be nice, but it isn't on the table.

by charlie on Apr 6, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

I'm not confused about that - what makes you think I am, I just agree that David's idea is a good one.

by David C on Apr 6, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

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