MyNewsLA.com
by Debbie L. Sklar

Electric and hybrid vehicles will be available to residents in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods under a car-sharing program funded by a $1.6 million state grant, it was announced Friday.

The grant awarded to the city of Los Angeles will fund a three-year program in which about 100 electric and hybrid vehicles will be shared in central, south and east Los Angeles neighborhoods, city and state officials said.

Charging stations will also be installed and maintained in the neighborhoods, with the goal of serving a total of 7,000 car-sharers.

Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who authored bills that helped pay for and create the car-sharing program, joined city officials and representatives of advocacy organizations in MacArthur Park, where part of the program will be launched, to announce the funding.

“Fighting smog and climate change so that our kids can breathe clean air requires more transportation options that don’t rely on dirty fossil fuels,” De Leon said. “This electric car-sharing pilot project offers a glimpse of the future, and represents the type of shift in policy, infrastructure and behavior that we need.”

The car-sharing program benefits from revenue from the state’s efforts — under AB 32 — to reduce air pollution through a “cap-and-trade” program, in which companies such as oil refineries trade an ever-diminishing supply of “permits” or “allowances” in order to delay having to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

The permits become steadily more expensive as the supplies dwindle, theoretically making it less cost-effective to keep polluting as time goes on.

Another bill authored by de Leon, SB 535, directs a quarter of the cap- and-trade revenues into programs to clean up the air in areas with disproportionately higher amounts of pollution and higher poverty levels.

As of the end of 2014, the state brought in $969 million in revenue from cap-and-trade auctions, which is expected to grow to $3.5 billion by mid- 2016, according de Leon spokeswoman Claire Conlon.

The electric car-sharing program announced today is also part of a larger plan under de Leon’s SB 1275, which calls for a series of programs to give low- and moderate-income people in California access to electric and other clean-emissions vehicles.

Joel Espino, a fellow with the Greenlining Institute, which helped de Leon craft his electric vehicle bill, said the electric car-sharing program and others like it “increase the mobility options and economic opportunities” in low-income communities that are usually the most impacted by pollution.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the car sharing program “a perfect example of how our state’s cap-and-trade dollars should be put to work: providing transportation options for Angelenos in need, and helping us achieve our clean air goals outlined in my Sustainable City pLAn.”

“I commend Senator Kevin de Leon’s leadership in creating the Charge Ahead program and thank CARB (California Air Resources Board) for selecting L.A. for this important grant,” he said.

A start date for the program has yet to be set, according to Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, which joined a coalition of community groups that is still working on designing the program.

The city of Los Angeles will first need to issue requests for car- sharing companies to take part in the program, while the Department of Water and Power will handle the installation of the charging stations, Feigon said.

The $1.6 million awarded by the state “leverages $8 million in investments” from other groups, including the companies that will be providing the cars and operating the sharing program, Feigon said.

Car-sharing is typically used for short trips, such as running errands, gettting groceries or going on job interviews, Feigon said.

People who car-share join the program as members and are issued a key card. When they want to take a car, they must make a reservation for one of several vehicles scattered around their neighborhood, and they usually must return the car to the pick-up location, Feigon said.

Some car-sharing companies allow for “one-way” car-sharing, which can be used for getting to a train station and other public transit, Feigon said.