A Key to Successful Transportation Systems

August 1993

Sustainable communities cannot be built upon automobile-centered transportation systems. Land-use, economic, ownership and energy costs required are excessive, even with projected 150 mpg cars. More central, however, is their inherent tendency towards dispersal of our communities and isolation of our lives.

Non-auto-centered transportation systems have two basis requirements for success. They must be able to provide more freedom, convenience, and quality of transportation than the automobile has offered. They must also be able to reduce the negative aspects of an auto-centered culture such as the economic costs, pollution, rush-hour congestion, driving stress, land use impacts, and the hassles of car buying, servicing, parking, and selling.

Pedestrian Pockets, Transit-Oriented-Developments, and Ecological Communities will not become viable community options until they can realize the significant financial, land use, and construction savings and gain the closer physical connectivity attainable from major reduction in the amount of land devoted to automobile movement and storage.

Merely adding public transit to our existing auto-based communities also raises rather than lowers overall transportation costs. Car ownership and associated costs are not significantly reduced, nor are the hidden costs of residential and commercial space devoted to car access and parking. Transit is consequently used less than optimally, and becomes an investment in addition to rather than in place of the automobile system.

An effective integrated transportation system uses each mode of transportation for its appropriate benefits, and allows users to effortlessly move from one to another. Air travel is used for over-water and transcontinental trips, high speed rail for regional movement, bus or light rail for inner city and interurban travel. Bicycle and pedestrian travel is used for short and unencumbered trips. Taxis, jitneys, vans, and Rentalls are used for dispersed, off-hour, assisted, and inclement weather destinations and travel.

Most basic is avoidance of need for transportation - creating environments and location of activities so we minimize the need to get away from them or to use means other than walking to access them.

Transportation system design needs to recognize that once an automobile is at hand, and particularly once a person is in an automobile, its convenience makes shifts to other modes unlikely, and gives no premium to proximity of destinations. Real improvement in transportation needs to make alternatives to the automobile available to us before an automobile is at hand.

One of the smaller yet vital elements necessary for the success of these new patterns is a new approach to automobile rentals - or more accurately, "Rent-alls" of all vehicle types. Where our automobile needs can be reduced to an occasional level of use, ownership becomes less important than the actual availability, convenience, and cost of having cars when needed. A hassle-free rental system can offer freedom from the costs and physical space commitments that car ownership entails.

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Rentalls are public-transit-linked vehicle rentals, providing a range of vehicle types and conditions of vehicles, accessible at all primary transit hubs and stations. A successful Rentall system contains a number of elements different from conventional car rentals:

* Automated, instant and hassle-free rental process directly integrated in primary transit stops, air, rail and bus terminals.

* Reservation and confirmation of vehicle availability from home, transit stop, or enroute on transit systems. If desired vehicle is not immediately available at the desired stop, the closest alternate location is given before the transit trip is started.

* "Transit Card" operation serving all modes of transit including vehicle rental, eliminating cash and i.d. problems, permitting discounts, and giving users accurate total costing of their transportation use and providing monthly information access to users.

* "Gas Pump" car insurance, if available in the state, reducing insurance costs and separating driving insurance from ownership of vehicles.

* Rentals available on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis, with charges set on a combined time-mileage basis. Including fuel costs eliminates "tank-refilling" issues and provides incentive for fuel economy.

* A range of available vehicle types, ages, and service conditions - including bicycles and hand carts.

Adding neighborhood Rentall vehicle rental facilities to transit stops creates significant advantages and new opportunities:

* The ability to access dispersed destinations through a transit-centered system is enhanced, increasing ridership levels.

* Both neighborhood residents and transit users have the opportunity to select different vehicles - subcompacts, convertibles, luxury sedans, pickups, vans,etc. - depending on each specific trip need.

* Car rental costs and storage needs are reduced through balancing weekday and workhour rental needs with evening and weekend uses.

* Automation of the rental process and reduction of "esthetic servicing" (wash and vacuum) between each use permits dispersal of rental locations for convenient neighborhood access.

* Different age and condition of vehicles can be chosen - rent-a-wreck, standard car rental, rent-a-Rolls - with commensurate cost savings.

* Economies of scale lower costs and omit hassles of private vehicle purchase, maintenance, and operation.

* Market development opportunities are created for 150 mpg urban cars, or electric vehicles charged from off-hour hydroelectric flows.

* Second-car ownership needs and costs can be drastically impacted, and primary car ownership to a lesser degree by making vehicle rental accessible, affordable, and hassle-free.

* Demand for single- and multi-car garages and driveway space on residential properties can be reduced. Existing garages can be converted to income-producing rental apartments.

* Parking areas at transit stops and in commercial area can be reduced, as "commuter" cars are re-rented during working day for "shoppers" and "day-trippers".

* Parking congestion on city streets can be lessened.

* Mobility for low-income families can be improved and costs lowered.

An integrated transportation system, with convenient linkages between modes, and utilizing both the ease and cost savings of public transit and the flexibility of car rental can offer real advantages to all kinds of transportation users:

* Central city residents can live their whole life without owning a car. Use of taxies as well as public transit daily, and car rental for special trip needs can still offer considerable savings as well as convenience in areas where residential parking spaces cost $10- $50,000 and vandalism and car insurance costs make car ownership a headache.

* Suburban commuters can depend on transit commuting, with the assurance that in-town cars are readily and affordably available if needed for mid-day errands or changes in plans.

* We can travel to unfamiliar destinations by plane, train, and transit, with the security of knowing that vehicles will be available when and where wanted for specific needs.

* Business travelers can use public transit totally for all but dispersed destinations, allowing travel time to be used for work, rest or relaxation, while having vehicles conveniently available to reach dispersed destinations.

* Transit-Oriented-Development residents can avoid all but foot and bicycle transportation for most needs, eliminating car ownership, and yet having a variety of vehicles available when need for their use arises.

Incrementally, a move is beginning towards Rentalls. A San Francisco condominium keeps a fleet of rental cars for its residents. Europeans are developing car-sharing cooperatives. Tourists in Europe can now get a Eurailpass for rail travel between cities combined with car rentals in individual cities. A transportation system, however, must give assurance of systemwide Rentall availability to gain the real benefits of such services.

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© August 1993