Is Parking (or Avoiding it) the Killer App for car2go?

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the car2go car-sharing system that debuted in Portland last week is one-way rentals.

One-way trips imply a very different parking model than the incumbent Zipcar. Zipcars have reserved spaces (for which Zipcar pays the City – at least for those in on-street meter zones). You have to end each trip back in the the reserved space. In-between you’re responsible for parking just as you would be with your own car.

But since car2go vehicles have no ‘home space’, they’ve cut a deal with the City. You can park in any legal on-street parking space, even in metered, time-restricted or permit zones (you are restricted from purpose-limited spaces, so you can’t park in loading zones or carpool-only spaces for example). Here’s the master permit the City issued (PDF, 19K).

[The City and car2go do ask you to avoid parking in half-hour or shorter time-restricted zones, but the permit does not actually enforce this.]

For this privilege car2go pays the City $1,009 per vehicle per year, an amount calculated as the sum of five area parking permits and an estimate of parking meter usage. car2go collects GPS data that will be used to calibrate the meter usage. The permit is up for renewal after six months and can be adjusted.

It seems to me that this unique set of privileges could make car2go disproportionally attractive for some types of trips. Parking in a meter zone without paying seems attractive, as would being able to ignore resident-only restrictions (I wonder if we’ll begin seeing all 250 cars showing up at Timbers games?).

On the other hand, there does have to be a space available to park in…

What do you think? Does the park-anywhere capability make you more interested in using car2go?

Are there unintended consequences that could arise from this – or are they mitigated by the idea that the vehicles won’t sit still for very long, and should be rented quickly by someone who will take them somewhere else?

Or am I just a complete wonk for even being interested in this…?

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