Despite the political controversies that surrounded the Corner Cars program over the past year, the city said that their two-year membership goal for the program has already been met after one year.
Throughout the first year of the Hertz Corner Cars program, each vehicle parked on Hoboken streets was used an average of 12.4 percent of the day, or about three hours in a 24-hour period, according to data from the city. The rate seems to be growing, because in June the cars had an average rate of 17.4 percent, or approximately four hours per day.
‘The program, after one year, has 1,667 members from Hoboken.’
In the summer of 2010, Hertz, partnering with the city of Hoboken, rolled out hourly rental vehicles on street corners marketed as Corner Cars. Forty-two cars were placed throughout the city last year in the hope that some residents would give up their cars and consider a car-free lifestyle in Hoboken, thus easing the parking situation in the city.
But the program was controversial, with some people believing that the cars took away valuable spots from residents and business customers.
The program, after one year, has 1,667 members from Hoboken, according to data released by the city. An additional 200 to 300 members live outside the city limits. Sacs said a two-year goal for the program was to have 1,600 members.
“Hertz is looking to have over 30 percent utilization rates, and the city is looking for around 20 percent,” Sacs said.
Once the utilization rates are exceeded, the program could expand.
When the program began, city officials hoped it would lead to 750 cars off the street. In the first year, Sacs said that 85 people have given up their residential permits in order to get rewards through the program. Sacs said that some members probably have also chosen not to bring a car to Hoboken when they move here, based on market research from other car sharing services. He said that such surveys have said that “an additional 20 members per car-sharing vehicle” will postpone or forgo purchasing a car. He said Hertz will conduct a survey later this year to get more specifics.
Sacs and Councilman David Mello have said they think the number of members will continue to increase as leaseholders decide not to purchase a new car when their vehicle leases expire.
Although some business owners are concerned, Sacs said overall the reaction from the community has been “extremely positive.”
“Original concerns about taking spots were valid, but they aren’t any longer, since 85 people surrendered their permits for 42 spots,” he said.
So, what’s next?
Sacs said there could be more cars from the program on the street in the future, but there would have to be an increase in the utilization rate, a demand from the community, and a rise in members.
“There should be one car for every 40 to 50 members,” Sacs said. “We’re at about 40 members per car now.”
The program has been embraced outside of Hoboken more than it has inside the mile-square city. Many national publications have written about the program since its inception approximately one year ago.
Some critics of the program have called for the cars to be placed in garages, as is done with the Zipcar program. Sacs said with the cars close by, more members find the program appealing.
The contract for Hertz expires in 2012, and some council members concerned with the program have said they hope the city can negotiate better terms with the car rental company. Hertz pays the city $100 per spot per month.
Sacs believes that if there is “a menu of transportation options” like Corner Cars available for residents, more people may choose to not own a car in Hoboken.
It has been one year since the Corner Car program began. What do you think? Take our poll at the end of this story at HudsonReporter.com.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com