Oct. 30 2013 09:20 AM

San Diego might try to bypass competitive bidding for car-sharing program


San Diego's all-electric-cars-haring program can be extremely convenient. As long as you're within the city's designated car-sharing zone, you can leave one of the compact, two-person vehicles at a meter or on a public street and just walk away.

Unlike most car-sharing programs, which require customers to end up in designated locations, San Diego's agreement with provider Car2Go gives users a huge amount of flexibility.

It hasn't been a bad deal for Car2Go, either. Under a two-year pilot program, which expired last week, the company had an exclusive, sole-source contract, which prohibited the city from contracting with any other providers.

Hailing the program as a success, the city, under a provision in the agreement, recently extended Car2Go's contract for another year, a decision that didn't require approval of the City Council.

"I'm a big fan of the car-sharing program," said interim Mayor Todd Gloria. "I think it's been incredibly successful. I know that San Diegans agree with me."

However, under the sole-source contract, the extension was intended to give the city time to conduct a competitive-bidding process. Now officials say they might choose not to issue a request for proposals (RFP).

"There's some legal concerns that we have about competitively bidding and whether or not we want to handle this with an RFP or as a city franchise, but we're working through those issues," Gloria said. "But I'm committed to making sure we have this really important transportation option available to San Diegans."

In response to questions about whether the city is legally required to conduct a competitive-bidding process, the City Attorney's office said it had not yet made a determination but was "exploring options."

Under the recently penned contract extension, there's no mention of competitive bidding; rather, the city states that it's given Car2Go another year "so that the City Council may establish the criteria for a permanent car-share program and revise the San Diego Municipal Code to include such a program."

Initially, the City Attorney's office said the sole-source contract could be justified because Car2Go was the only company that could provide a large-scale all-electric fleet. Car2Go now operates about 380 vehicles in the city, as well as several charging stations.

However, a number of similar companies have since arrived in the United States, including BMW DriveNow. Through the RFP process, the city could conceivably contract with multiple providers, in order to insure a competitive marketplace for consumers.

Write to joshuas@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on twitter at @jemersmith.


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