Silence can mean a lot of things. In this case, the silence of Hertz Corp. was loud and clear to Santa Monica: the car rental company elected not to do business with Santa Monica City Hall.
Council members unanimously approved on Tuesday the withdrawal of negotiations between City Hall and Hertz after the latter essentially disappeared from the bargaining table.
The two parties had initially connected to bring a pilot car share program to Santa Monica.
Accordingly, City staff will be looking for a new contractor to partner with and pursue the pilot program.
The car-sharing pilot program was intended, according to City staff, to be “an essential tool in contributing towards the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) goal of No Net New PM Peak Hour Vehicle Trips.”
With the arrival of three Expo stations within Santa Monica within the next two years, City Hall aimed to implement a car-sharing program connected to public transit destinations across town. The idea: take the Expo Line or other form of public transit into Santa Monica, have a vehicle available at the station as a means to get around town.
The car-share program operates similar to renting a vehicle.
Such a car-share would ideally increase usage of public transportation while hopefully decreasing car ownership.
“Research has shown a beneficial relationship between the availability of car sharing and transit ridership, including a reduced reliance on car ownership,” City staff stated.
In June 2013, council members approved City staff to come to terms with Hertz on a two-year deal to launch the car-share program.
After the council vote, City staff and representatives of Hertz reportedly engaged in contract negotiations.
In its report to council members, City staff stated there were two rounds of contract negotiations, after which Hertz became “unresponsive to repeated requests” to finalize an agreement.
City staff stated a letter was sent from City Hall to Hertz on March 27, requesting the car rental company provide some sort of response to Santa Monica by April 18.
Silence from Hertz maintained, according to City staff, leading local officials to believe Hertz was no longer interested in working with Santa Monica on the pilot car share program.
Also according to City staff, officials from neighboring Los Angeles sought to contract with Hertz on a similar pilot car share program in that municipality, with both parties not yet reaching an accord.
With the council vote on May 27, City staff will officially withdraw from negotiations with Hertz and begin accepting proposals from other companies to help execute the pilot program.
City staff hopes the pilot car share program can lift off by late fall 2014. In the interim, City Hall will be issuing a request for proposals and review responses once they are submitted. Once the proposals are submitted, City staff will make a recommendation to the council for a new provider.
If council members agree with City staff’s recommendation, they would then vote to authorize negotiations with the vehicle provider and ultimately approve a contract.