Tel Aviv Revs Up Plans for Citywide Car Sharing

The city is putting out feelers to replicate the popular bike sharing program in hopes of easing the traffic and parking problems that currently plague its streets.

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Imagine if you could head out in the morning and find a car with your cellphone, start it up with a smart card and park it near work for about NIS 25 an hour. That’s the new vision of the Tel Aviv municipality, which wants to expand its popular Tel-O-Fun bike rental program to cars.

On Wednesday, the Authority for Economic Development in Tel Aviv sent out an international request for information to other cities with car-sharing programs to examine the technical and economic feasibility of short-term car rentals inside or outside the city.

Car2Go, a private company, has provided a similar service in Tel Aviv in recent years but differs in its subscription method and in the fact that cars must be dropped off at the same lot where they were picked up.

Municipalities around the world have started testing this transportation model. Paris launched Autolib’ a year and a half ago, which offers a fleet of 3,000 small electric cars for short-term rental and 6,000 charging stations. Representatives from Tel Aviv recently visited the City of Lights for a firsthand look at Paris' solution to the 450,000 cars that crowd it each day and the resulting traffic nightmares.

A telephone survey conducted this year among Tel Aviv residents found that 43 percent use a private vehicle to go to work.According to a municipality estimate based on worldwide project figures, for every shared car in service, 15 private vehicles are taken off city roads.

It would work like this: customers can pick up and drop off the car at different stations and will be charged up to NIS 25 for the first half an hour. In Paris, the price of an annual subscription translates to a monthly fee of 12 euro, plus five euro for the first half hour of use.

Like it did with Tel-O-Fun, which provides 1,600 bikes and 160 parking stations in the center of the city, the municipality intends to partner with private companies to get the project up and running.  

Whoever wins the franchise would have to operate a website and maintain a 24/7 service hotline to provide rescue and technical services. The municipality also suggests creating a smartphone application for users to search for available vehicles and check how much power is left in them.

One of the goals of the Authority for Economic Development is to reduce the number of cars on the road by five percent in the first two years, lighten traffic and ease the parking problem. At this stage, it's unclear what will be the business model or how pricing will work.

At the moment, it's also unclear how the municipality will handle the budget needed to support the project since similar rental services around the world are not profitable. Most are subsidized by local governments or by investors who see the service as a way to increase sales.

BMW, for example, established the DriveNow car sharing program with the Sixt car rental company and Volkswagen established one called Quicar.

An Autolib car juices up in Paris where the car-sharing program has helped ease traffic in the congested city. Officials hope to bring a similar program to Tel Aviv.
A Tel-O-Fun bike rental station in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.Credit: Alon Ron
How the average Tel Aviv resident gets to work. Credit: Haaretz

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