Carsharing companies like Zipcar, which allow users to rent a car by the hour as they need them, reduce car dependence and help people who don't own their own vehicles avoid the stress and struggle of, say, taking an unwieldy Ikea box on the bus. But so far, and probably for good reason, they've mostly been underused in low-income communities, which could use them just as much if not more than richer folks. To help close this gap, says CityLab, LA's received a $1.6-million grant from the state to run a pilot program that will put 100 hybrid and electric shareable cars into a handful of less affluent Los Angeles neighborhoods, starting in the areas directly around Downtown.
The cars (at least 80 of which are going to be electric) are slated to pop up in Westlake, Pico-Union, Boyle Heights, Koreatown, and parts of South LA. Once it's all set up, the goal is for the three-year program to serve 7,000 drivers, says City News Service. The city still has to figure out who's going to run the program, and work out things like a pricing structure and vehicle locations. (The City Council also needs to formally accept the grant.) But LA's Chief Sustainability Officer still feels confident that the cars could be on the road by the beginning of 2016.
The impact of carsharing in these areas, especially with lower-emission cars, could be big: putting lower or no emission cars in low-income neighborhoods could really help toward improving air quality (many of LA's low-income 'hoods also have some of the worst air quality because they're close to factories or freeways or both). Plus, sharing a car instead of owning will help save money on upkeep and maintenance, and for folks on an already-tight budget, that could add up to significant savings.