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Zipcar expands in Houston

Very cool.

A car-sharing service on Wednesday expanded from spots on the Rice University campus to other locations in Houston, providing city residents with another option for transportation.

Zipcar is making available 25 vehicles in 10 different locations in Houston including the downtown area, Mid-town, Greenway Plaza, and Upper Kirby.

“We want the locations to be five minutes walking distance from neighborhoods, so they can see it as their car,” said Kaye Ceille, president of Zipcar. “They also know that the car may be used by their neighbors, and that’s why its car-sharing.”

[…]

Zipcar was introduced to Rice University in 2008, allowing students, staff and faculty to use its services.

Of course I noted Zipcar’s arrival at the time. Here’s more from their press release.

Beginning today, 25 Zipcars are available by the hour or by the day for residents, students, businesses and visitors in the city of Houston. Zipcar’s revolutionary “wheels when you want them” service offers a wide variety of vehicles, from MINI Coopers to pickup trucks, and includes gas, a reserved parking spot, insurance, and 180 miles per day, making it a great option for those looking for convenient and cost-effective transportation. The launch, which makes Houston the company’s 27(th) major metropolitan area, will be supported by a retail office where members can interact with a local team.

Zipcars are parked in prime locations throughout Houston including the Downtown area, Midtown, and Greenway Plaza/Upper Kirby. Zipcar expects to expand the service to additional neighborhoods in the near future. The vehicles are parked in designated parking spots and can be reserved in seconds on Zipcar’s mobile app, online or over the phone. Rates start as low as $9 per hour and $73 per day. Membership information is available at www.zipcar.com/houston.

[…]

Zipcar’s consumer launch builds on its successful program with the city of Houston FleetShare program in which Zipcar technology is embedded in city-owned vehicles, increasing efficiency, accountability and lower overall fleet costs. Zipcar has also offered service to Rice University students on campus since 2009. In addition, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University will be adding Zipcars on and near campus to further provide alternative transportation options to students, faculty and staff. These programs are expected to launch in Fall 2014.

“I want to welcome Zipcar to all of Houston,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “This is another major step forward in Houston’s ongoing effort to change the way we live and get around the City. Sustainable transportation options offer convenience, are less of a burden on our pocketbooks and also have a big impact on our environment.”

Here’s the map of where Houston’s Zipcars currently livel there are actually several downtown spots for them. I’m sure it will expand to more locations soon. I guarantee that being a Zipcar member is cheaper than owning a car, and having that option available will make living and working in these places a lot more attractive. Sometimes you just need a car, but unless you need one every day having Zipcar around makes a lot of sense.

We need more early voting locations

Greg made an observation about the District H result that I’d like to explore a bit.

Yolanda’s early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed’s 29%.

I was at Maverick Welsh’s return-watching party on Saturday night, and I can tell you that this wasn’t unexpected at all by his crew. They knew that the early voting locations were in parts of the district that were less favorable to Welsh, and they planned to make up the difference on Election Day itself. Which is exactly what happened, as turnout in the Heights was heavier than in other areas. I was a little surprised at how much ground he made up, but the final result wasn’t that surprising.

While I don’t think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there’s a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it’s not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it’s between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it’s walking distance from where I work.

Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here’s the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that’s no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?

The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.

What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don’t know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don’t know what the details are, but geographically speaking that’s what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.

None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You’d have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn’t make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn’t open for this. They didn’t think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they’ve ever gone to vote early. It’s time for there to be more places like that.

UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn’t want to cross I-45, which he calls “the Mexican-Dixon line”. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it’s convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don’t have to?

UPDATE: Greg adds on.

UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.

We need more early voting locations

Greg made an observation about the District H result that I’d like to explore a bit.

Yolanda’s early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed’s 29%.

I was at Maverick Welsh’s return-watching party on Saturday night, and I can tell you that this wasn’t unexpected at all by his crew. They knew that the early voting locations were in parts of the district that were less favorable to Welsh, and they planned to make up the difference on Election Day itself. Which is exactly what happened, as turnout in the Heights was heavier than in other areas. I was a little surprised at how much ground he made up, but the final result wasn’t that surprising.

While I don’t think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there’s a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it’s not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it’s between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it’s walking distance from where I work.

Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here’s the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that’s no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?

The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.

What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don’t know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don’t know what the details are, but geographically speaking that’s what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.

None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You’d have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn’t make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn’t open for this. They didn’t think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they’ve ever gone to vote early. It’s time for there to be more places like that.

UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn’t want to cross I-45, which he calls “the Mexican-Dixon line”. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it’s convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don’t have to?

UPDATE: Greg adds on.

UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.