The city has lifted the cap on the number of car-share vehicles that can be put on the streets. For those who sign up for the service, it means you don’t have to worry about gas, vehicle maintenance or car insurance.
YOU might not know it, but I actually drive to work some days. As Seattle’s transportation director, I often walk to work from my home in the Central District, but when I have an early meeting or start my day out in the field, I usually jump into a car and drive into work.
And I’m typically choosing from one of 1,113 cars available to me. Fortunately for my neighbors, I’m not parking all of those cars on-street in front of my house. Instead, I am taking advantage of the many vehicles you can find citywide thanks to free-floating car sharing.
Free-floating car sharing is a business model where customers rent vehicles for short periods of time, by the minute, without a fixed pick-up or drop-off point. It provides easy access to an automobile for people who occasionally drive or might need a different type of vehicle than the one they own. It is the auto outgrowth of the sharing economy. In this instance, the shared resource is a car — the private companies provide the vehicle, and you provide the driver.
Once signed up, you just check on your phone for a nearby vehicle and reserve it. Then you merely walk to the vehicle, open it via its app and drive away. At your destination, you park the car legally, lock it up and walk away. It’s as simple as that.
With Seattle being a trendsetter in so many areas, especially technology, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are a nationwide leader in adopting free-floating car sharing. The first service to operate in Seattle, car2go, already has approximately 77,000 members. ReachNow, which just launched its service on April 8, has not yet released its membership data. As a sign of our city’s car-sharing presence, ReachNow, a BMW subsidiary, recently moved its national corporate headquarters to the Belltown neighborhood.
As someone focused on how well our transportation system functions, I appreciate that car sharing gives people another option for getting around the city.”
As someone focused on how well our transportation system functions, I appreciate that car sharing gives people another option for getting around the city. The bus doesn’t go by your destination at the time you need it? Hop in a car2go vehicle and head on out. Need to visit a business district but are worried about the cost of hours of paid parking? Just drive a ReachNow car over, park it on-street and let the next customer pick it up from there.
Best of all, adding 1,113 cars doesn’t mean that many more vehicles competing for parking space in some of our most popular and highly trafficked neighborhoods. A 2015 survey, done in coordination with the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that 7 percent of free-floating car-share members in Seattle have given up a vehicle partially due to this service.
Extrapolating these results to just car2go’s approximately 77,000 free-floating car-share members means a reduction of roughly 5,390 cars on-street due to car sharing. By permitting 1,113 car sharing vehicles to operate, 5,390 other cars are no longer on the road or taking up a parking space near you. For those members, it means significant savings as they no longer have to worry about gas, vehicle maintenance or car insurance.
All of these are reasons why the city of Seattle recently opted to remove the cap on the number of annual car-sharing permits issued citywide. Instead of the previous maximum of 750 vehicular permits each, car-sharing companies can now expand the size of their fleet to better address demand in a city spanning 83 square miles.
We’ll keep an eye on the impacts of this cap change and closely follow trends for car sharing to ensure it has the desired effect.
Car sharing is working in Seattle and in cities like Denver, New York City and San Francisco. It provides an easy-to-use choice for moving around our growing city. My wife and I often take car2go and ReachNow, which complement travel options like Lyft, Zipcar, Uber and taxis.
So give it a try and join me in driving one of 1,113 cars already available in Seattle. It may just be the best car you will never own.