Car2Go has added 250 vehicles and stretched its Seattle territory, into the far north and far south areas of the city, the company announced Tuesday.
That brings the total number of petite, white-and-blue vehicles to 750, roaming 83 square miles. About 63,000 people have enrolled in Car2Go here and taken some 2 million trips during two years through the close-in Seattle neighborhoods — the highest use in the U.S., according to Michael Hoitink, location manager for Car2Go Seattle. The company charges a $35 membership fee plus 41 cents per minute while driving. City leaders hope people will ride more transit and own fewer cars, if they can grab a short-use car for occasional needs.
The Austin-based company, a subsidiary of Daimler North America, is responding to local demand as well as competition from BMW, which plans to bring its rival DriveNow service to Seattle this year. In addition, the City Council now requires these floating fleets to reach all neighborhoods. Council members said they worried about social inequity — that by overlooking South Park and Rainier Beach, the floating rental services catered only to richer, whiter markets. DriveNow is considering ways to reach past Seattle to serve employment centers on the Eastside, as well as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Car2GoSeattle also is interested in the airport, but has no plans yet, said spokeswoman Dacyl Armendariz.
Along with its success, Car2Go faces challenges:
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One is a shortage of curbside parking downtown. Car2Go drivers are banned all day from parking on peak-time bus lanes. Other downtown spaces are off limits because they’re for carpools only, for government vehicles, or passenger loading. On Twitter Tuesday morning, Car2Go Seattle recommended using Pronto Cycle Share when downtown space is tight.
Another is the customer-service question of fleet balance. At midday Tuesday, commuters had parked Car2Go vehicles all over South Lake Union, while virtually none were available on Capitol Hill or the Central Area, reader David Seater noticed. Car2Go Seattle does have a team that redistributes cars.
Third, surveys show that while 3 percent to 4 percent of Car2Go clients gave up personal cars, the majority are driving the same amount of miles overall.