Metro Council to take up Zipcar pilot program, River Center naming rights at today’s meeting

    Mayor Kip Holden’s administration plans to pave the way for Zipcar, a car sharing network already servicing LSU, to expand to downtown Baton Rouge at today’s Metro Council meeting.

    John Price, Holden’s assistant chief administrative officer, says the council will hold public hearings on two measures that would allow Zipcar, a company owned by Avis Budget Group, to put its vehicles at four metered parking spots downtown.

    One measure would change the city-parish’s ordinance on parking to permit the vehicles to be parked in reserved spots. The other would allow Holden’s office to sign a contract with Zipcar to place the vehicles within the Downtown Development District.

    If passed, the measures will set in motion a pilot program for one year, with a one-year renewal option.

    “It’s a no-brainer,” Price says. “It helps to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, it doesn’t cost the city-parish anything and we get 100%” of the money the city-parish already gets from the meters, plus a small premium.

    Zipcar is working with the city-parish and Baton Rouge Area Foundation to offer tourists and downtown residents an alternative to traditional rental cars. Price also says the city-parish may be able to save money by having government workers use Zipcar instead of purchasing fleets of vehicles.

    Zipcar allows customers to apply online for a “Zipcard” and pay by the hour or by the day to drive short-term rental cars. Customers can buy memberships for $70 per year, and must pay $8 to $10 per hour, with Zipcar covering gas and insurance.

    “Already at LSU we had heard very good things about Zipcar’s success,” says BRAF Director of Civic Leadership Initiatives Beverly Haydel, who helped facilitate talks between the company and the city-parish. “There are a lot of business people who come in town and don’t want to rent a car for 24 hours. Now they’ll be able to rent cars at an hour at a time.”

    The program is part of a broader “New Mobility Initiative” at BRAF to provide people with alternatives to clogging the roads downtown. The organization hopes to have a bikeshare program up and running by 2017, and have already begun work on an electric vehicle initiative with the city-parish.

    Also on the council’s agenda today is a measure authorizing Holden to execute an agreement for the naming rights to the Baton Rouge River Center. Though supporting documents attached to the council agenda by Holden’s administration do not specify who the naming rights may be sold to, sources with knowledge of the deal tell Daily Report Raising Cane’s would pay $3 million for the naming rights over 10 years, or $300,000 per year. It is not clear whether the rights will extend to the River Center’s arena, theater and exhibition hall, or just the arena.

    The Metro Council also will consider appropriating $250,000 for improvements on the Riverfront Plaza, including lighting improvements and construction of a shade structure on the Riverfront dock, and discuss changes to ordinances governing sidewalk cafes downtown.

    The council meets at 4 p.m. today on the ninth floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St.

    See the full agenda.

    —Sam Karlin

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