But on Tuesday, the mayor hopped into a Mini Cooper convertible and valeted it from the cobblestones in front of City Hall to a parking space just a few hundred feet away.
The occasion? The launch of the city’s Zipcar network, which I wrote about in today’s paper. The Mini is one of 20 Zipcars that will be parked around downtown Baltimore, waiting for Zipcar members — they call themselves “Zipsters” — to rent them by the hour or day.
City officials and Zipcar executives say car sharing will cut down on traffic and alleviate parking hassles by making it easier for residents and workers in the city to get by without owning a car.
“Many see the problem as there are too few parking spaces,” said Mark Norman, president and COO of Zipcar. “We see it as there are just too many cars.”
Baltimore’s network includes 18 cars on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, and 20 around the Inner Harbor and downtown. Two more will be added to Federal Hill.
There could be up to 70 cars in Baltimore in the next year. And the company has agreed to put at least four cars in neighborhoods with low car ownership within the next 18 months. The locations are available here, on the Zipcar site.
“This service will free many residents from the burden of car ownership and free them from the costs of owning a vehicle,” Rawlings-Blake said.
The company estimates one shared car can replace 15 to 20 individually owned cars.
Each Zipcar has its own name, so members can keep track of a favorite vehicle. Some here have distinctly Balitmorean names, like “Charm City,” “Crab Cake” and “Edgar Allen,” a Ford Escape in Harbor East.
Characters from The Wire, the HBO series, appear to be the inspiration for at least two of the 20 downtown Zipcars. “Stringer” is a red Volvo S40 at Penn Station, and “McNulty” is based on Charles Street. I’m having a hard time picturing the brash city detective in the fire engine red Mini Cooper that bears his name.