Car sharing in Seattle is getting an upgrade. BMW Group officials were on Capitol Hill Friday morning to unveil their re-booted and re-branded free floating car share service which will add all-electric BMW i3s and non-electric 3 Series and Mini cars to the city’s mix of park-anywhere vehicles.
ReachNow is the first competitor to Car2Go’s Smart Car fleet since Daimler AG rolled out the service in 2012. The official ReachNow launch includes a nod to BMW’s pre-app days — an event at the Pike Motorworks building, a former BMW dealership.
BMW officials were planned to be joined by Mayor Ed Murray to announce the company’s re-start of U.S. operations, which includes opening a new headquarters in Seattle. Officials say they plan to expand service to several other cities this year, but chose Seattle for its headquarters because of its environmentally conscious consumers and electric vehicle-friendly infrastructure. CHS will be updating here with more details from the event.
UPDATE: “Have a BMW for the weekend,” is how BMW executive Peter Schwarzenbauer pitched Seattle’s new car share service Friday morning. i3s, 3 Series, and Minis were parked inside and trotted about outside the Pike Motorworks building on E Pike to show off the ReachNow fleet, which is now available for rides.
During the event Schwarzenbauer highlighted some of the “premium” services that will go above the traditional care share model. Among the most innovative is allowing BMW and Mini owners to earn money by putting their own vehicles on the ReachNow network. Just how much car sharers will be compensated is still getting worked out.
Details were also scant on some of the other promised features, like how service to SeaTac Airport will work and when ReachNow’s service map will expand to more Seattle neighborhoods. Users can drive outside the “home area” but cannot end trips there. Schwarzenbauer said when all its services roll out this year, ReachNow would clearly stand apart from Car2Go.
“We have only premium cars in our fleet,” he said. “We would see ourselves as the only one in the market that tries to cover every need you would have.”
Car share caravan on E Pike pic.twitter.com/lVj7vlSkKn
— Bryan Cohen (@bchasesc) April 8, 2016
ReachNow is working to ramp up fill its 370 vehicle permits. Signing up will require users to scan their driver’s license and then verify their identity by taking a picture of their face through the ReachNow app.
At 370 vehicles, ReachNow will bring a 50% increase to the number of current free-floating cars in Seattle. BMW could have up to 500 vehicles concentrated anywhere in Seattle or 750 that must be accessible citywide, which would need to happen after two years in any event.
Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas read a mayoral proclamation Friday declaring April 8th Car Share Day in Seattle.
ReachNow will essentially operate like to Car2Go. Users will need a driver license and credit card to sign up and use the ReachNow app to locate and reserve cars. Drivers can park in any legal street parking space, including metered spaces and residential zones.
Car share users will find comparable prices between Seattle’s two services. ReachNow will cost $0.49 per minute while driving and $0.30 per minute while parked and requires a $39 one-time signup fee (currently waived if you register through the app, as noted in comments). Car2Go costs a flat $0.41 per minute and requires a $35 signup fee.
The first ReachNow ride can be started within minutes of downloading the app, but all future rides will require a key card sent by mail. ReachNow’s “home area” — where you can start and end trips — will initially be limited to an area bounded by N 105th St. and S Lander, and west to 15th Ave W. West Seattle and Magnolia are off limits for now, but ReachNow says it plans to expand in the coming months.
In addition to taking on Car2Go, ReachNow will also try to compete with Uber and Lyft with “chauffeur” service expected to roll out this year. Tapping into fears over dangerous Uber drivers, Schwarzenbauer said ReachNow would “secure safety issues” by using drivers specially licensed by BMW.
A few additional services in the pipeline will make ReachNow stand apart from Car2Go, including:
- Delivery service for car sharing vehicles
- Vehicles on-hand at the airport
- Car sharing for longer rentals
- Car sharing for residential and corporate groups
The Capitol Hill launch is also an opportunity for BMW to reveal its new car share brand in the U.S. Launched in Munich in 2011, BMW’s DriveNow currently operates in several European cities and opened U.S. operations in San Francisco in 2013. The company then closed up shop last year citing insurmountable problems with the San Francisco’s parking regulations.
Seattle appears to have ironed out any major parking issues after three years of Car2Go. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, car sharing accounted for less than 5% of available parking spaces in business districts and those vehicles often sat idle for less than an hour.
Thousands of Seattle drivers have already turned in a private vehicle for car sharing memberships and SDOT expects that trend to continue.
BMW’s launch comes a year after the Seattle City Council voted to allow three more free-floating car share vendors to join Car2Go. Car2Go currently has 750 vehicles permitted for its service — the maximum allowed by the City for an individual provider. With four vendors, that means Seattle could have up to 3,000 free-floating cars on the road.
UPDATE 6/20/2016: It’s not a floating option, but Zipcar is adding 100 cars to the streets of Seattle under its new one-way system:
Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, will officially launch Zipcar’s new flexible features in Seattle, combining the best of Zipcar’s round-trip service with the spontaneity and freedom of new, flexible features that allow members to choose their destination (one-way or round trip with parking), change their destination mid-trip, and extend their reservation indefinitely.
Here’s how the new one-way pricing is described:
Rates start at $5 per half hour, but vary by city and day of the week. This rate includes gas, insurance, and reserved parking on both ends. Regular membership plan discounts apply.