Archive | Carsharing

More Reflections on car2go

Now that car2go has been in operation for a few weeks, I’ve had a chance to use it a handful of times and have some additional observations.

There’s also been more than a little chatter on the interwebs among transportation advocates that car2go makes it too convenient to use a car!

In my own use, I found it mostly competing with transit. The cases where I’ve found myself looking at the iPhone app to find a car are when I’ve planned to use transit, but the next vehicle is more than 10 minutes away. In one case I did rent a car.

I suspect that if you’re already car free (or the member of a one-car household like me, without immediate access to the family vehicle) car2go DOES compete with transit and cycling.

In general, the ‘sustainability win’ for car sharing is that it makes it more likely that your household will give up a car (or not buy one to start with). From that perspective, I think that having car2go in the mix may very well encourage more folks to go car-lite or car-free.

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Don’t do this with your car2go

Courtesy of cfarivar [Ceative Commons licence]

The ‘parking advantage’ has also been interesting. It’s terrific not to have to worry about meters, time limits or residential-only zones, but there is only a slight advantage in manifesting parking spaces (the car does fit in some spaces smaller than an average sedan could get into). So I still found myself driving around looking for spaces. It’s very frustrating to be circling the block at 35 cents per minute!

The other question I’ve seen around the net is whether you can take advantage of the small vehicle size and park perpendicular to the curb. The short answer is no, the car2go documentation says not to:

Vehicles parked in curbside spaces must be parallel
parked unless the location specifically requires
perpendicular or angle parking.

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…?

Where the Cars Are

car2go launched in Portland officially this past weekend.

I had the chance to go for a test drive this week with CEO Nicholas Cole. I won’t go into the system details, because Jonathan Maus and Dave Brook have both done excellent write-ups already.

The signal feature of the system is one-way, reservationless trips.

As I mentioned previously, I’m now a member of three car-sharing systems. Here’s how I’m thinking about using them:

car2go – I think this will probably compete for trips with relatively spontaneous mode choices, where I probably would have been deciding between bike and and transit in the past. Now I’ll have a 3rd choice, particularly when I’m carrying something heavy or bulky or when the weather is not great.

Zipcar – when I need certainty for arriving somewhere at a specific time. For example, when I have to demo our one of our larger Transit Appliance units, I often find myself making a Zipcar reservation.

Getaround (where you are renting someone else’s car) – I think I would primarily use this for trips that are planned well in advance (it takes some arranging to get access to the car) and probably for longer trips where the usually lower rates will matter. In practice, I’m likely to use this very infrequently since I can effectively do this already within my household (my partner makes me buy gas for her car, but doesn’t charge me an hourly fee!).

One of the things that fascinates me about car2go is the “park anywhere legal” (almost) aspect of the system. I’m do some additional research on this and will post about it in more depth later.

The other thing that fascinates the policy and technology geek in me is how the cars will disperse based on use and the technology to track them.

I saw my first car in the wild on Sunday morning while going to breakfast on N. Mississippi. On Sunday morning the map on car2go’s site showed a pretty good dispersal of cars in the core of the City. There are also several smart phone apps for the same kind of search.



The Explosion of Vehicle Sharing Options

I’m now a member of three car-sharing systems.

Not that I use any of them very often. We’re a one-car household, but generally I can arrange most of my must-use-an auto trips so that I can borrow my partner’s hybrid (and she is very clear it’s HERS).

But maybe a dozen times a year, I need a vehicle when hers is not available, and Zipcar (and before the merger, Flexcar) has been my go-to. In fact, I’ll use one today to schlep my stuff to demo our Transit Appliances at the Transportation Safety Summit this evening.

I’ve just joined two new systems, neither of which I have actually used yet:

  • Getaround – which offers the prospect of renting cars from your neighbors when they’re not using them (no cars very close to me yet, but we’ll see) and
  • Car2Go, which is unique in Portland in offering one way rentals. Just park the car in any legal on-street parking space within the service zone (downtown and East Portland out to about I-205) and you’re done. It’s reservationless, you hope you’ll find a car near where you are when you want one – the cars will be here later this month.

And PBOT is promising our bike-sharing system in 2013 (dependent on finding a private operator).

But there are more options on the horizon:

  1. Scoot Networks is piloting an electric scooter sharing system in San Francisco.
  2. And that’s not the only thing being tried in San Francisco, reportedly a car sharing company there is offering e-bikes as part of the rental fleet.

I really like that last idea – offer a wide range of vehicle types from bikes up to pickups and vans, from one common reservation system.

Where will it stop – what other vehicles might be shared? What other sharing models could work?