A Gig car: Gig, the Bay Area’s first floating, one-way car-sharing program, launches in Berkeley and Oakland on April 30. Photo: Gig Car Share

Live in Berkeley, have an appointment in downtown Oakland, and wondering about the easiest way to make the trip? BART, bus, Uber, Lyft, taxi, Zipcar or your own car are pretty good options.

And soon, a new transit choice joins this getting-around landscape, tailored, at least initially, for travel within the cities of Berkeley and Oakland.

Enter Gig Car Share, launching April 30, the Bay Area’s first floating, one-way ride sharing program. Pick up a Gig car in a Berkeley or Oakland location; drop it off in another – managed through an app.

Thanks to a special parking permit with each city, Gig cars park on the streets in regular spots, exempt from meters and residential parking limits, as long as the spaces are for 2-hour parking or over.

“We are excited to facilitate one more shared mobility option for people to get around Berkeley and the surrounding areas whether or not they own a car,” said Farid Javandel, Berkeley’s transportation manager. “We already have BART, buses, “traditional” car share, taxis, rideshare, and even bike share launching by this fall.  One-way car share gives people one more choice to fit their mobility needs.”

The Berkeley City Council approved a one-way car sharing pilot program late last year. Oakland approved a similar program, making way for ventures like Gig that operate in both cities simultaneously.

One-way sharing is convenient; cost-effective, especially for people who can’t afford to own a car; and results in fewer parked cars since people start opting for sharing over ownership, and shared cars tend to stay in motion, Berkeley officials said, citing data from cities with similar programs.

“The average car parks for 95% of the time, but there is limited space for parked cars. One-way car share can more efficiently use cars and the curbs they park at, while reducing demand for individual car ownership,” said a city of Berkeley press release on the program.

“Studies have shown that every car-sharing vehicle removes 9 to 13 other vehicles from the road. Members either sell their car or avoid buying a car they had planned on before getting a car sharing company,” the release said, citing a 2010 UC Berkeley study.

“In Seattle, one-way car share vehicles are typically parked for one hour or less before being used by a different person,” the press release said, citing city of Seattle data.

Other cities with similar programs include San Diego, Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, Canada; Austin, Texas; and Washington D.C.

Under the permit agreement with Berkeley, one-way car share companies pay three annual fees: a flat fee of $11,375 per year; an addition parking meter fee of $1,580 per car (which is adjusted at the end of the year based on actual use), and a $165 per car special permit fee for Residential Preferential Parking zones.

The fees are designed for the city to break even, Javandel said.

Gig (Get In Go) is the first company to enter an agreement with Berkeley under its new program, which sunsets on June 30, 2019, unless the City Council votes to modify or extend it.

It’s also the first car share offering of the AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, the nonprofit automobile association best known for car insurance and fixing road-trip flats.

“Today there’s a functional shift from individual car ownership to transportation as a service. So we see this as an opportunity to further our connection with a new generation of members,” said Jason Haight, AAA’s Gig chief.

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah is the second automobile association in the world to offer one-way car sharing, Haight said. The first is in British Columbia, with a growing Vancouver fleet of 1,000 cars.

On its April 30 start date, Gig members will have access to a fleet of 250 Toyota Prius c hybrids (bright blue) with room for five people and roof bike racks, initially parked in high-traffic areas of Berkeley and Oakland. Haight points out that using hybrids provides an environmentally friendly driving option that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

Similar to other shared car experiences, Gig is accessed via an app on your smartphone. To become a member, you download the app, register a credit card, and enter your driver’s license information (or scan your license.) “We’ll run a driving history,” Haight said.

The app shows the nearest available Gig cars. You can unlock the car with a button on the app or a special access card that AAA mails Gig members.

Keys are in the locked cars, which can be reserved 30 minutes in advance.

Gig cars, which will be clearly marked, must be picked up and dropped off within what’s called the HomeZone, encompassing sections of Berkeley and Oakland. The special parking permit covers only the HomeZone. HomeZone maps are on the app, and in the glove compartment of each car.

Pricing is per mile, hour or day, whichever is the least expensive; the app will calculate the best price. The rates are: $2.50 per mile; $15 per hour, and $85 per day. Gas, insurance, and taxes are included.

Gig has a $15 one-way Oakland airport parking deal with a long-term lot.

Gig is open for sign-ups now at a special pre-launch discount. You don’t need to be an AAA member, but members get a 10% discount on the program.

If the pilot is successful, the plan is to expand the HomeZone, the number of cars, and the number of cities with the service, Haight said.

“There are several cities across our footprint where we think one-way car share would be successful,” he said, “The key to one-way car share is the super [parking] permit.”

Berkeley’s Javandel said under the pilot program, the city will issue up to 1,600 total one-way car share permits, but no more than 700 per company. “Other companies have expressed interest, but not yet applied,” he said.

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Freelancer Catherine "Kate" Rauch has been contributing to Berkeleyside for several years. Her work as a journalist has encompassed everything from 10 years as a daily news reporter for the East Bay Times,...