A recent Wall Street Journal article tells its readers that some developers are offering an alternative for “luxury homeowners who want to kick the car habit,” through buyer incentives, and car rental and sharing opportunities. Life without a car is already a viable option in urban environments, as ride sharing apps such as uber and lyft offer round-the-clock transportation to complement great walkability and public transportation options, particularly as congestion and traffic continue.
To combat congestion and save on development costs, some buildings are offering unique opportunities for homeowners. For instance, Lumina, a condominium building in San Francisco, gives homeowners a $10,000 credit to forego a parking space with the convenience of eight luxury Audi vehicles available for rent when private transportation is required. As Carl Shannon, senior managing director at Tishman Speyer, the building’s developer, tells WSJ, the program encourages residents that don’t drive often to embrace a lifestyle without a car, and has eased traffic within the building’s garage. Similarly, 50 West, a tower in New York, provides its residents with a digital valet service run through an app, which allows residents to request a car to run errands and navigate throughout the city when they need it.
More and more projects are turning to alternative transportation and parking options, particularly as some municipalities (such as New York, Miami and Chicago) have “eased minimum parking requirements when developers offer alternative transportation options.” The goal? To minimize “traffic congestion and free up street parking.”
To be sure, there are still many luxury condominium projects catering to car owners, such as Pacific Gate, a San Diego building that provides “two parking spaces to buyers of two- and three-bedroom units, even as it offers a fleet of four luxury vehicles and a boat.” Yet looking at rental properties, the preference to rely on options alternative to car ownership is trending upward, particularly as residents elect to move into buildings within close proximity to other transportation options or that offer incentives for those that forego the car.
As Dean Jones, President & CEO of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, whose firm represents the NEXUS Condominium project in downtown Seattle says, the in-city gridlock has pushed Seattleites to live without their own car. In presales, “many buyers have opted to reserve homes without parking stalls,” he says. Jones points to cost savings and effective options such as walking, mass transit, biking, taxis and ride sharing services, among others.
“Urban residents would rather invest these savings into other lifestyle pursuits or size up their residence where they spend far more time than they do behind the wheel,” he added.
Ultimately, downtown Seattle’s total households is projected to increase by 50% over the next two decades, which will result in even more traffic congestion. Fortunately, the city of Seattle is working diligently to overcome these issues with proposals such as protected bike lanes, increased public transportation, and new streetcar routes. For its part, Sound Transit will provide 62 miles of light rail system upon completion of the ST3 initiative, which will cost billions and take more than a decade to complete.
“It’s a step in the right direction but it may be too little too late,” Jones said. “For now, many in-city residents will continue to opt for a car-less option to avoid the headache of increasing traffic within the city.”