The joint effort between UCSB and Santa Barbara County to implement a car-sharing program at the university and in Isla Vista has encountered a few problems, slowing the plan’s completion.
The plan, which was first proposed in July of 2003 as part of the I.V. Master Plan, intended to allow Isla Vista residents and UCSB students to rent cars for personal use for an hourly and per-mile fee. Logan Green, a member of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District committee, said the university and county have since had problems finding a company willing to insure drivers age 18 and over. Most car-sharing companies only allow students who are 21 and older to use their services. As a result, the car-sharing program is now in a reformative phase.
Jamie Goldstein, project manager for Santa Barbara County Planning & Development, said the insurance issues they are facing are similar to that of renting cars, but similar programs have been implemented at other universities.
“Georgetown and Stanford already have car-sharing programs, so it can be done,” Goldstein said. “It’s about the necessary funds and players to make it happen,”
The county and the university are working on the issue from different angles, he said.
“The county is focusing on the community of Isla Vista and the university is working to bring car-sharing for its faculty and staff as a first step,” Goldstein said. “We have different forces, so it’s not necessarily a joint effort.”
Green said it is possible the university will plan a similar car-sharing program for on-campus residents during the 2005-06 school year.
For Isla Vista residents, Goldstein said the county is changing its initial proposal, and planners are ironing out the details of the program.
The county planners submitted several “requests for proposals” to both for-profit and nonprofit companies nationwide, Goldstein said. From these proposals, only one company responded, saying it could not provide the service for licensed drivers younger than 21 years of age.
Green said he thinks the best way to implement the program for Isla Vistan residents would be to create a nonprofit organization through the county that would allow for insurance to cover 18-and-over drivers. The standard 21-and-over age limit excludes a large portion of the target group, he said.
Vetronix, a Santa Barbara based company, would supply the equipment to outfit the vehicles if the county created a nonprofit company, Green said. Venotrix is also working with the university to provide cars for the campus’ program, he said. The car-sharing program would use environmentally friendly cars, such as hybrids, equipped with global positioning systems.
While the county planners have seriously considered the nonprofit option, Goldstein said, they have not yet committed to a single plan.
“Other options include creating a joint powers authority, a for-profit entity or going through existing government agencies,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said the budget has not been finalized yet from any particular funding source, but that the county has talked to several car rental companies to see what they can offer.
Even if the county decides not to create a nonprofit organization, Green said there are still many other options.
“In the worst case scenario, we would have to go through Flexcar, which is the largest car-sharing company in the United States,” Green said. “We would pay them on a monthly basis for vehicles, but we would only be able to allow drivers 21 years old and up to participate.”
Environmental Affairs Board co-chair Aaron Gilliam said a car-sharing program would be ideal because it is easy to use and inexpensive. Gilliam believes that using a vehicle through the car-sharing program could be as easy as logging on to the Internet and making a reservation.
To prevent theft and vandalism, Green said the cars would be parked in “secure lots,” not on the streets of Isla Vista. Users would be required to use a proximity card that keeps track of the miles traveled.
“The user-identification cards show who was using a vehicle at a particular time in the event of an accident,” Green said. “There will also be a DMV record check to become a qualified user. A DUI within three years or two or more moving violations would disqualify a person from use,” he said.
Green said the car-sharing program was designed to help address the parking tribulations I.V. continually faces.
“Car-sharing works especially well in college towns where people only need cars a few times per month,” Green said.
As part of the I.V. Master Plan, Opticos Design, an urban design firm, analyzed the local community in 2002 and suggested that a car-sharing program would minimize the local environmental problems, Green said.
Goldstein said the program would also allow students to save money when – and if – the Isla Vista parking plan goes into effect. It would also ease Isla Vista’s current parking problems.
“It costs a lot to own a car, especially with insurance, gas and maintenance,” Goldstein said. “People who own cars are paying for a car whether or not they use it. Car-sharing provides the option for people to have a car only when they need it. This benefits those who don’t have money to own their own car, reduces congestion and encourages other forms of transportation.”
The Isla Vista parking program, which also stems from the I.V. Master Plan, is currently being appealed to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The plan would require each car parked in I.V. to pay a fee for a permit.
Gilliam said there is a need for more options to offset the parking plan’s drawbacks.
“Professors already use the van pool and we have a bus system, but the car-share is the missing link to adequate transportation on campus and in the local community,” Gilliam said.
While no target date has been set for the program’s completion, Goldstein said he hopes to have it running before the parking plan comes into effect.
“I.V. needs a change, and this is just one piece to the puzzle,” Goldstein said.