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Seattle opening door to ‘floating’ car-share service including one-way trips, anywhere parking

Despite some borderline-ridiculous bumps in the road along the way, the Seattle City Council is expected Monday to approve a pilot program that will bring a new type of car sharing program to the central Seattle core — including Capitol Hill.

Car2Go’s “floating” car-share model will bring a fleet of 350 electric Daimler Smart ForTwo cars to Seattle in a pilot program to evaluate the impact of a service that will be allowed to utilize any public parking space to house its vehicles. The new service is expected to begin operating in 2013.

Early discussion of the bill that will pave the way for the company to enter the Seattle market was nearly derailed by a Council sporting some rather outdated concerns:

Opponents on the council, however, objected that the new service would allow cars to take up parking spaces that could otherwise be occupied by cars owned by homeowners who live nearby, or patrons of neighborhood businesses. They also questioned whether shared cars might threaten taxi drivers’ business.

A more valid objection that continues to surface is the company’s service of the city’s core while more diverse areas to the south and the whole of West Seattle could be left out of the project for the time being. Car2Go had drawn its proposed southern boundary at I-90 but is now extending the service to the Mount Baker and Beacon Hill light-rail stations, the Seattle Times reports.

The service is likely to be a popular alternative on Capitol Hill where Zipcar stations continue to proliferate. Unlike Zipcar, Car2Go drivers will be able to use the cars for one-way trips allowing customers to mix and match transportation options. Cars can also be billed more granularly than Zipcar’s 30-minute increments and, maybe most importantly, can be stowed away safely in any public parking spot — including in the city’s RPZ areas. Pricing includes a $35 annual fee and hourly rates. San Diego recently saw its Car2Go rates bump a $1 higher to $13.99 per hour with a $72.99 cap. Unlike Zipcar, Car2Go’s fleet is uniform — perhaps part of the driver behind an increase in the diversity of Zipcar’s vehicle types to include cargo vans and pick-up trucks. UPDATE: We’re told that Zipcar also might be considering adding services similar to Car2Go.

Below is a Car2Go business presentation from a City Council transportation committee meeting this fall.


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11 thoughts on “Seattle opening door to ‘floating’ car-share service including one-way trips, anywhere parking

  1. I have always been really frustrated at the lack of feasibility of ZipCar for the very reason that having to return the car to its parking spot and if the one that happens to be close to your house is being used, you’re SOL. I was in Austin, TX, recently, where Car2Go is super popular and people love it. I wish I’d known to register before heading down there. Being able to hop in one of these and go to some other part of the city to spend the day, drop something off with a friend, pick something up, etc., would be amazing.

    Walk downtown, buy some things that are considerably larger than you were planning for, toss ’em in this car (ok, not *too* large, if they’re going in a Smart car…), take this one-way to a beer festival, etc. I can’t wait.


  2. Won’t people be more inclined to use this service for uphill trips? What happens if all the cars end up in places like Capitol Hill and Queen Anne and then no one wants to drive them back down?

  3. The requirement to return the Zipcar to the same parking spot was never really a problem for me, mostly because my trips involved taking a car near my home, running an errand which involves something big and bulky (and generally outside of Seattle City limits) and returning home.

    Otherwise I was use Zipcar to drop friends off if they were visiting me late at night, and thus would need to get home. It seems like most one way trips would be cheaper with the bus.

    Between that, and how my family is about to go from two person to three person, I can’t see this really threatening the niche Zipcar has. It bothers me that its boundaries exclude areas of low-income, where families tend to live (like West Seattle, but then as I’ve noted this is not a family friendly service because of the car choice) and the SmartCars are so small that is prevents group outings. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out.

  4. How often do you drive somewhere and never return back to where you started? My biggest complaint with the zipcar is that it’s great for quick errands, but not exactly useful if you want to go to a friend’s house to hang out for a few hours as you’re paying for the car even though you’re not technically using it. I wish zipcar would adopt some of these ideas re: one way trips, and maybe they will now that C2G is coming into the city.

    The biggest argument I see between the two is whether you want vehicle diversity/size or one-way trips.

  5. In other cities, the cars tend to gravitate toward downtown during the day and then toward residential neighborhoods in the evenings, and we’ll probably see a similar pattern here.

    Car2go will have local staff to move vehicles around as necessary to put them in places people will use them, and also to comply with the city’s 72-hour rule. So vehicles will not be hanging out at the top of Queen Anne for weeks on end.

  6. On the one-hand, they push their “free-floating” model, but on the other hand they are very happy to use the well researched enviro benefits of a “two-way” carsharing model, such as City CarShare or Zipcar. Car2go primarily replaces taxi, transit, walking and bike/bikesharing trips, with other carsharing companies and finally “car ownership” way down the list. Most people cannot rely just on car2go to replace ownership – so if they are in fact more like a “self-driving” taxi, what are their real enviro benefits? And why do they keep using stats from another service-type to promote their own?

  7. The biggest drawback to Zipcar is the late fees. They make traffic ten times more stressful and result in dangerous driving.They should make it easier to have the next reservation take a different car in the same lot without penalty. If they don’t eliminate late fees, I’m totally switching to Car2go.

  8. Though I think this alternative to Zipcar is a good thing, using an all-Smart Car fleet is not. If one needs to transport more than one other person or anything larger than a few bags of groceries, you’re out of luck and have no option other than Zipcar’s larger car selection. Why not offer some small CUVs like the VW Tiguan or Honda CRV? Nonetheless, I hope Cars2Go is a success.