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LA to get electric car-sharing program in low-income neighborhoods

The Bolloré company, which operates the Blue Indy electric vehicle car-sharing program in Indianapolis and another program in Paris, will install 100 electric vehicles and 200 charging stations in Los Angeles.
The Bolloré company, which operates the Blue Indy electric vehicle car-sharing program in Indianapolis and another program in Paris, will install 100 electric vehicles and 200 charging stations in Los Angeles.
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The city of Los Angeles is moving forward with a program to bring electric car-sharing to some low-income neighborhoods as part of an effort to lower greenhouse gases and increase mobility in polluted areas of the city.

The L.A. City Council has approved a contract with Blue California, a subsidiary of the French company Bolloré, which operates electric vehicle car-sharing in Paris and Indianapolis. The program in Los Angeles will be the first of its kind to focus specifically on low-income communities. 

The program will be paid for with $1.67 million in state cap and trade funds, the charges companies pay to offset pollution, which are intended to pay for measures that will lower carbon emissions. The private company Blue California will also invest $10 million in the program and the city of Los Angeles will contribute $1.8 million.

Under the contract, the L.A. Department of Transportation will work with Blue California to install about 200 electric charging stations and distribute 100 electric vehicles through downtown L.A., Westlake, MacArthur Park and parts of Koreatown. Users can check out electric vehicles for single trips or short periods and return the car to any charging station.

The communities were chosen because they fall in the top 10 percent of those identified by the state as having the lowest incomes and being the most vulnerable to pollution from traffic or industrial sources.

The program is the culmination of years of work by the Shared Use Mobility Center, a nonprofit that works to connect private enterprise with public agencies to encourage shared mobility options. The center has collaborated with the city on a plan to take 100,000 cars off the road over the next five years.

Sharon Feigon, executive director for the group, said electric car-sharing will integrate well with L.A.'s ambitions to expand its transit network. She cited research her group conducted that showed those with access to multiple modes of transportation besides transit, such as car-sharing or bike sharing, are actually less likely to own a car than those who only utilized transit.

"The idea is that if you can create an ecosystem of different options that are suitable for different types of trips, people can really live well without having to own their own car," she said.

She said that's because people feel more comfortable living without their own car if they know they have access to affordable cars when they need them, such as to make big purchases or take children to an appointment.

There is not yet information on how much membership for the car-sharing service will cost, if anything. Officials are hoping to get 7,000 people to sign up during the pilot phase and possibly expand the system around the city if it's successful.

Officials hope to expand the pilot beyond L.A. and use cap and trade funds to help reach California's stated goal of getting 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.