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Zipcar Is Coming to Dallas -- For Now

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Dallas knows how to do car ownership. It's kinda sorta embraced Uber and Lyft. But short-term car rental?

That's to be determined this summer, when the city dips its toe into Zipcar.

The inaugural neighborhoods -- downtown, the Arts District, Uptown, Oak Lawn and Mockingbird Station -- have been selected. Other details are still being hammered out.

"We're still finalizing where the Zipcar locations will be," says Dallas PD assistant director Donzell Gipson, who's overseeing the program for the city. "There's some places they have proposed or shown interest, [but[ there'll be a little more science put into it."

Zipcar, a short-term car-sharing service that often charges by the hour, currently has outposts at UT-Dallas and SMU, but none in the city of Dallas proper. A spokeswoman says the agreement with City Hall is "an important first step and we look forward to working with the city on the pilot program."

Gipson says the Zipcar rollout is part of a broader experiment in Dallas aimed at easing the parking experience and bringing the city in line with its peers. In September, Dallas rolled out a system-wide pay-by-phone option for parking meters that has been wildly successful jumping from about 3,000 users last October to 18,000 last month.

That system will stay, supplemented by Zipcar and other new parking technologies: wireless sensors to detect when a car occupies a meter space; an app allowing drivers to find, reserve and pay for parking slots on their mobile device; and expanded use of credit/debit and multi-space parking meters.

Gipson stresses that this is all experimental and that the city isn't putting forward serious money for anything.

"We're not buying anything for what we're doing," he says. "It is literally field testing and demonstration. We don't own it. They own it."

He likens it to test-driving a BMW. Maybe you liked it those couple times your friend let you take it for a spin, but you don't know if it's a smart buy until you live with it for a few weeks. At the end of the six-month pilot, the city will decide what, if any, services it wants to implement long-term.

As for the impetus behind the sudden burst of parking innovation, Gipson tells about the time he bought a Palm Pilot. The device had been cool at the time, but he waited until the price dropped to buy his own. By that time the universe had moved on.

Same thing with parking. Other cities adopted pay-by-phone and swipable parking meters long ago. If Dallas doesn't try to catch up now, Gipson says, it'll be stuck holding the Palm Pilot.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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