This morning, car2go—the free-floating car-sharing system featuring perky, pay-by-the-minute Smart cars across 60 cities worldwide—announced it would grow its Seattle fleet by a full 50%, increasing from 500 to 750, and that it would expand to cover the entirety of the city limits.
The expansion takes advantage of legislation passed by City Council in January to allow up to 3,000 car permits total: up to 750 for each of four companies, and 750 only if the company’s service area includes all neighborhoods within city limits. Further, any company operating for at least two years in the city must cover the entire city, regardless of the operator’s size at that time—an important provision to ensure equal access to car-sharing for all Seattle communities.
At present, Seattle is car2go’s largest US market, with nearly two million trips since its 2013 launch and reportedly more than 59,000 members as of December. (By the numbers, that’s one car2go member for every 11 Seattle residents!) For those concerned about how 3,000 shared vehicles might impact already headache-inducing traffic and parking, it’s important to note a few things:
- 3,000 little Smart cars are not rolling out this very minute seeking “your” coveted Capitol Hill parking spot—or rather, half of it, given their size. Car2go is still the only free-floating car-share player in town currently, and it’s maxed out at 750 under current legislation. Other companies will need to plan and grow just like car2go did to participate in the Seattle market, and rumors still see only one such additional company on the horizon.
- Car2go actually reduces car ownership among its members. The company reports that three to four percent of its members give up a personal vehicle since after car2go. That’s about 2,000 fewer cars on our roads. (I’m happily one of those 2,000, by the way.)
- Car2go reports that its vehicles in Seattle average just 1-2 hours of idle time holding a parking spot. The average privately owned vehicle sits idle for 23 hours a day (see #8).
- The bigger picture of these little shared vehicles is that they provide transportation convenience to those who can’t afford a personal car or who only need to drive occasionally; they complement transit options; and they help reduce overall city carbon pollution by reducing car ownership.
All in all, I’d say that’s a positive contribution to our increasingly (and necessarily) complex ecosystem of urban transport options.