New York City is the latest, and biggest, municipality to try car-sharing for city employees as a strategy for reducing costs and the number of automobiles on the street. Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, already use car-sharing programs.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that New York would try a pilot program in which 300 city employees would share 25 Zipcars — mostly hybrids – that would be based in garages in downtown Manhattan. The move is expected to save the city $500,000 and mean fewer cars on the streets.

Zipcar parking lot in New York.New York jumps on the car-sharing bandwagon.Photo: Shinya SuzukiFrom the city’s press release:

“Earlier this year, we announced a large-scale effort to make city government smaller, smarter, and more sustainable — both environmentally and fiscally,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “An important component of that effort is looking at city-owned cars. A car-share program could help reduce the number of cars we use, cut our costs, free up parking on our streets and reduce the congestion on our streets and the pollution in our air. It’s another example of how we are constantly working on new ways to deliver better services at a lower cost to the taxpayer and to the environment.”

Last year, the mayor ordered city agencies to reduce their vehicle fleets by at least 10 percent, and 750 cars were sold. The city owns about 26,000 vehicles overall.

Bloomberg’s administration has made other moves to reduce the number of government employees using personal motor vehicles to get around the city, including slashing the number of parking placards issued to city workers.

The placards — which allow officials on city business to park for free in a town where people have been known to kill each other over a parking place — are widely abused, so much so that the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has devoted an entire website to documenting violations. It’s called Uncivil Servants.