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Zipcar Leaves a Car Sharing Void in Downtown

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008, at 07:56AM
waving the smart card on the flexcar ... again Sarah Gilbert [Flickr]

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Zipcar announced yesterday (via an email that some members got and some didn't) that it is pulling out of Southern California, save for a few university contracts. The services had previously been run by Flexcar, who merged with Zipcar late last year. An article in today's San Diego Union Tribune points a finger at the obvious culprit: cash flow.

Following a recent merger with competitor Zipcar, it appears the move was based on finances.

“There's no doubt it was a tough decision,” said company spokesman John Williams. “You have to be responsive to where the demand is, and they were seeing the strongest demand and the strongest prospects for growth in the university markets.”

While the move is a tough one for those who had come to rely on the service, I don't think that the company's failure to make Downtown work is an indictment of the concept. There are other models, and I believe that another model could work for Downtown.

While they got a lot better last year, on the whole Flexcar just didn't get Downtown. Why weren't there cars in new developments from the moment they opened? Developers are all for solutions that reduce the number of spots they need, so I have trouble believing it would be lack of interest.

Yesterday I spent a good bit of time thinking about City Car Share in Berkeley and Philly Car Share in Philadelphia. Each is a non-profit car sharing organization whose launch was seeded by municipal participation, getting over the chicken-and-egg problem of which comes first, the cars or the members? I think this model could be replicated well in Downtown L.A.

In the interim, I'd love to hear from you. If you used the service, what did you like? What kept you from using it more? If you didn't, what kept you away?

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