The little Car2Go vehicles in Seattle are so popular that the City Council is considering legislation to let more companies enter the market, and eventually to allow as many as 3,000 “free floating car sharing” permits.
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chairman of the Transportation Committee, filed the ordinance Monday morning. Open discussions will likely start Dec. 9, at the panel’s next meeting.
Car2Go began operating in Seattle with 350 permits in early 2013, expanding to 500 within the year, as its territory also expanded, to cover all but the far north and south ends of town.
As an incentive to reach farther, the proposal would let each company buy up to 750 permits if they’ll serve the whole city.
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Citizens are asking for car-share to become available around the Othello and Rainier Beach light-rail stations, currently outside Car2Go territory, Rasmussen said. As many as four companies could participate.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she enthusiastically supports the increase.
“For those of us living downtown, it is so much better than having your own car,” she said. Bagshaw said she and her husband have only one car, so she often uses Car2Go to reach outlying neighborhoods.
One challenge will be finding places to park them on certain central-city trips. Spaces in downtown or the Chinatown International District tend to fill midday, though Bagshaw says that’s not been a problem for her.
Shared cars aren’t allowed to be parked in peak-time transit lanes, which must be cleared by late afternoon.
The Seattle Department of Transportation would decide whether to designate certain blocks for car-share only, said Rasmussen.
A staff report cowritten by Mike Estey, Seattle Department of Transportation parking-operations manager, predicts a total 1,300 floating vehicles next year, and 2,000 in 2016.
Companies would pay a fee of $1,730 per car next year, a $400 increase, for the privilege of occupying paid spaces, as well as crowded areas subject to residential parking zones.
Total revenue is forecast at $2.25 million next year and $3.46 million in 2016. That compares to current fees bringing about $665,000 to the city.
Car-share is part of a broader city strategy to reduce solo driving, by making it easier for clients to rely on transit or bicycles, while using Car2Go sporadically to fill the gaps.
Rasmussen predicts the proposal could attract interest from Zipcar and BMW, whose vehicles might be roomier than Car2Go’s easy-to-park Smart cars. He said he visited BMW’s Drive Now electric car-share operation in San Francisco, but a lack of roadside chargers in Seattle limits that fuel option here.