As Bike, Car-Sharing Take Hold, Issues Arise About City Space Reserved For Them

Jul 9, 2019

Hui car sharing stations located at Ala Moana Shopping Center.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi / HPR

The Honolulu City Council recently approved 160 designated parking stalls for car-sharing services, but some council members have raised questions about whether the city's policies on the reserved spots for ride-sharing operations are fair to companies and taxpayers.

Last week, the council signed off on Bill 19, allowing car-sharing services such as Enterprise CarShare and Hui Car Share to pay an annual fee to reserve city parking spaces which will be created around the island. The bill allows 80 on-street parking and 80 off-street parking stalls to be reserved for the companies on city property.

The annual fees for the parking stalls will vary, depending on the location. For example, stalls in Waikiki will cost the car-sharing companies $4,380. Wes Frysztacki, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said the fees were calculated by taking a percentage of the maximum revenue the city could make with a metered parking stall.

Frysztacki told the council that DTS has not yet identified specific locations for the stalls. He also told the council that the city will create the stalls for car-sharing services rather than designate stalls that already exist. He said this ensures there is no decrease in available parking to the public.

Bill 19 will be reviewed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration, his spokesman said. No date for a decision on the proposal has been set. 

The bill passed by a final vote of 7-2. Councilmembers Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Kymberly Pine voted against the measure, both saying the DTS plans were not clear enough.

Tsuneyoshi said she wanted to make sure that car-sharing services would communicate with neighborhood residents about their plans for expansion. She pointed to Biki, the popular bike-sharing service, as an example.

“As we saw with Biki, it started small, as a pilot program, and then it expanded everywhere,” said Tsuneyoshi.

She asked DTS to notify residents ahead of time where the car-sharing parking stalls may be installed. Frysztacki said DTS officials plan to attend Neighborhood Board meetings and conduct surveys of residents before the stalls are installed.

While Bill 19 does not apply to Biki operations, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi also expressed concerns about the bike-sharing program, which launched in 2017. Kobayasi pointed out that Biki is using city stalls and space for free. But she said the locations are often used as drop-off areas for disabled and elderly people.

Biki, run by the nonprofit Bikeshare Hawaii, currently has over 100 stations from Kalihi-Palama to Kaimuki with 39 stations occupying on-street metered parking stalls. About 90 percent of the Biki stations operate on city property. 

A Biki pay stand in the Honolulu area
Credit Casey Harlow / HPR

Frysztacki said Biki’s use of metered parking areas for their bike-sharing services are temporary. They are also not being charged for their use of city space, including sidewalks and previously metered parking stalls.

“We wanted to support that particular mode of transportation because it is a pilot,” said Frysztacki. “It’s a unique mode of transportation to our island and we wanted to see if it was going to be successful.”

According to the Mayor’s office, Biki will be expected to pay for the metered parking spaces once it is “a financially self-sustaining organization.”

Todd Boulanger, executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii, explained that city and state partners created Biki and Bikeshare Hawaii as nonprofits, modeled after TheBus, the city’s public bus system.

Car-sharing companies, such as Hui, are for-profit entities and would be expected to pay fees for commercial use of city parking stalls, said Boulanger.

Although Biki is not paying fees for city-owned spaces, Frysztacki said its value is measured in other ways. As Boulanger put it, Biki provides a “physically fit mobility option for those in town at the most affordable rate possible.”

The 24/7 bike-sharing service, he said, also reduce the number of cars on the road, provides exercise and helps expose consumers to local businesses. Originally, Biki officials believed that most of their riders would be tourists, but found that 60% to 70% of their daily users are kama’aina.

Biki's current permits to occupy city areas will expire in December. Frysztacki said ultimately, DTS hopes to equalize the rates for all ride-sharing companies.