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Los Angeles Metro Wants Drivers to Rent Out Their Cars

In a unique partnership with car-sharing firm Getaround, the city's transit agency hopes to reduce congestion and improve last-mile travel by allowing drivers to turn their vehicles into temporary car-shares.

Drivers commuting to a transit hub in Los Angeles may want to consider renting their car out while it sits in the parking lot all day.

At least that’s what officials at Los Angeles Metro are encouraging them to do. The transit agency has partnered with the car-sharing platform Getaround to allow participating drivers to place their personal cars at transit hubs and rent them to transit riders who may want to drive the final leg of their trip.

The service allows personal cars to be outfitted with technology to enable them to be located, unlocked and rented via a mobile app, much like users may unlock a bike or e-scooter. Prices start at $5 per hour, depending on the type of vehicle. Metro began its partnership with Getaround in February, licensing more than 100 car-share parking spaces at 37 Metro stations.

In order to participate, the vehicle should be a 2008 model or newer and have less than 125,000 miles, said Joan Wickham, director of communications for Getaround.The company takes a 40 percent commission on rentals.

“We’ve had many inquiries and positive feedback from transit users that are now able to share their cars,” said Dave Sotero, communications manager for L.A. Metro. “We’ve also received positive feedback from patrons that need to utilize a vehicle for a short amount of time.”

App-based car-renting is not new. Services like ZipCar, REACH NOW, GIG and others have appeared in numerous cities, offering quick car-renting with trips priced often less than 50 cents a minute or several dollars an hour. One of the latest to launch was GIG in Sacramento, Calif., which has placed some 250 battery-electric cars on city streets. The program is lauded largely for being free of tailpipe emissions.

Officials at Metro say they were drawn to the Getaround model primarily because it does not result in a net gain of vehicles on L.A. streets — a city whose car use is legendary.

“Getaround offered peer-to-peer car sharing instead of placing a fleet of vehicles on the streets,” said Sotero in an email. “L.A. is a very congested region. Utilizing existing vehicles makes sense to help address auto congestion.”

"We are always looking for opportunities to partner with cities to help reduce congestion and pollution," echoed Wickham. "We have also added 30 cars to stations along the Blue Line to help improve mobility while the route is closed for improvements. We're also looking to partner with other agencies in cities in the L.A. and Orange County areas to improve peoples' ability to easily and affordably get around."

Placing the cars at transit locations helps to solve another persistent transit issue: closing the first-mile, last-mile gap. L.A. Metro is no different from other transit agencies, which have struggled to find convenient, affordable opportunities to both get riders from home to a transit station, or finish the trip to a workplace or other destination.

“Transit patrons usually park their vehicles for eight to 10 hours per day while they are at work,” Sotero offered. “During that time, another transit patron may need to run errands, or go to the doctor or grocery store, or other errand. This car would be available for them to rent on an hourly basis, providing an affordable connection to their personal activities.”

The San Francisco-based Getaround service is available in 140 U.S. cities, with Los Angeles as one of the fastest growing markets, said Wickham. 

Many transit agencies — Metro included — have expanded agreements with micro-mobility operators to place bikes and scooters at transit hubs. Just last month, Metro announced the launch of more than 300 electric-assist bicycles at more than 20 stations. The bikes are part of the Metro Bike Share program, a rent-to-ride bike service where Metro riders can seamlessly move from a bus or train onto a bike.

“Now you can get off your train or bus, hop on a bike, and pedal where you’re going. Climbing hills and riding long distances are no obstacle because you’ve got an electric motor that will help you glide from the Metro station to your destination,” said Sheila Kuehl, L.A. County supervisor and Metro Board chair, in a statement.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.