Reuters

The GSA hopes it will save money. In the process, it could also help spread the idea much further.

The U.S. General Services Administration manages some 200,000 vehicles, cars used by federal government offices in cities around the country to attend meetings or visit communities. That's a massive transportation footprint (and a sizable budget item for the federal government). It may also represent a big opportunity to extend the reach of car-sharing.

This week, the GSA announced that it's looking for input from car-sharing vendors and industry experts on how it might broadly apply the concept to the government fleet. The GSA is primarily looking to save money by relying on car-sharing services instead of buying or leasing new vehicles.

"The second piece is that we think car-sharing will also help agencies realize that they don’t need as many cars as they already have and can then possibly reduce their current fleets," says Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for the GSA.

It's also conceivable that government car-sharing may help government employees realize the same thing about their personal vehicles. It's hard to imagine a larger single employer – the federal government employs more than 2 million civilians – with this much power to expose new users to the idea. If agencies incorporate car-sharing into the work culture for even a fraction of those employees, that would be a significant milestone in further normalizing it.

For now, the GSA says it's open to all kinds of models: car-sharing fleets reserved for government employees, or fleets shared with the broader public. The administration may also consider deploying car-share systems to manage the disparate fleets already held by multiple agencies in a single city. Given that several car-share services are regional, the government could also wind up working with many vendors all over the country.

Currently, Hertz, Enterprise, and Zipcar have small contracts with individual federal offices. But as GSA scales up the idea, with pilot projects planned in several cities, it's also hoping to expand that list.

For now, the agency is soliciting responses to a "market research questionnaire" about how all of this might work. Some of the questions (PDF) will probably sound downright quaint to anyone who's been following this space longer than Uncle Sam has. To wit:

Are there application fees? If so, how do they work? The Government would not be interested in paying an application fee for each potential driver - how can application fees be waived? If they cannot be waived, how would you recommend they be established and centrally managed?

Top image: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  2. Design

    The Curious Politics of a Montreal Mega-Mall

    The car-dependent suburb it’ll be built in wants to greenlight Royalmount against the city government’s wishes but it needs them to pay for the public infrastructure.

  3. Multicolored maps of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tampa, denoting neighborhood fragmentation
    Equity

    Urban Neighborhoods, Once Distinct by Race and Class, Are Blurring

    Yet in cities, affluent white neighborhoods and high-poverty black ones are outliers, resisting the fragmentation shown with other types of neighborhoods.

  4. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  5. A photo of a visitor posing for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville
    Perspective

    Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

    From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?