Three years after Yale rolled out its Zipcar car-sharing program, New Haven residents may see an expansion of the service into its neighborhoods.
On Tuesday evening, the Board of Alderman approved a contract with Zipcar to add two of its vehicles near Union Station and grant them free parking. The contract serves as a compromise between Zipcar, which originally asked for a guaranteed payment if the cars were not used enough, and Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson, who argued for a monthly rental fee from the company for their parking slots.
Officials from Zipcar did not return a request for comment Tuesday. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he did not have a strong opinion about the legislation.
“It’s not a business arrangement in which Yale is a part or party,” University Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said. “We’re just enthusiastic cheerleaders for even more sustainable transportation in even more places.”
The Board of Alderman first entered negotiations with Zipcar during the summer, discussing the possibility of expanding the program beyond Yale’s campus. In July, Zipcar, the University, City Hall and the independent New Haven Parking Authority, which oversees the city’s parking infrastructure, reached a tentative agreement to bring two cars to Union Station. As part of the agreement, the parking authority would pay Zipcar up to $3,100 in compensation a month if the cars were underused.
Goldson called the proposal “a bad deal” and insisted on further discussions. The agreement was delayed until late July, when Zipcar agreed to waive the guaranteed payment.
But the members of the Board of Aldermen were split on the proposal coming into Tuesday night’s meeting, voting at the meeting to add an amendment by Goldson to alleviate concerns. The amendment requires Zipcar to present to aldermen within 60 days a plan to spread Zipcar service into underserved New Haven neighborhoods, such as Dixwell and Newhallville.
At the meeting, Goldson said Zipcar is paying prime money for parking locations in New York and Boston. He added that the same should apply in New Haven, because it is an “equal partner” in negotiations. Other audience members, including former Ward 14 Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, who is the assistant to the director of sustainable transportation at Yale, argued that two free parking slots are a small price to pay for the thousands of dollars saved by local residents from purchasing cars. It is a small move, she said she believes, that could be expanded to benefit the nearby poor communities.
The original contract negotiations were spurred by three years of successful Zipcar operation on campus.
Zipcar first entered a partnership with Yale in September 2007, offering students, faculty and staff access to its cars. Students said at the time that the service saves them hundreds of dollars of parking fees for their own cars and curbs the carbon dioxide emission in the city by reducing the numbers of vehicles on the street. The popularity of the program among Elis has fueled its growth; the number of Zipcars on campus has grown from six to 26 over the course of three years.