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Innovative, flexible car sharing coming to DC with car2go

Car2go, a subsidiary of Daimler, is looking to bring its "point to point" car sharing model to DC, with about 300 cars possibly as soon as this fall.

Photo by atxryan on Flickr.

With a car sharing service such as Zipcar, you reserve a car that lives at a certain spot, use it for a while, then return it. This is very useful to let car-free residents run errands that require cargo capacity, or take trips out of town. But each Zipcar needs a dedicated parking space. When a car is out, nobody else can use that space, and that car might spend some time sitting parked when nobody else can use it, either.

Car2go's model doesn't have designated spaces. Instead, cars are just parked at various places on the street and in garages. If you want a car, you use the web, a mobile app, or call into a call center to find out where nearby cars happen to be parked. Then, you go to one, unlock it with a code, and drive it.

When you're done, you just park it anywhere on the street, even in a wholly different neighborhood than where you picked it up. Car2go is working with DC to allow cars to park in RPP zones across the city, on the logic that the cars will serve those residents in RPP zones who don't have their own cars. They will also work out deals with garages in downtown areas.

They already run service in Austin, Vancouver, and in the German cities of Hamburg and Ulm. San Diego is starting up soon with an all-electric vehicle fleet. (DC's wouldn't be electric at first, since we don't yet have the infrastructure for charging the vehicles.)

In Austin, the service costs 35¢ per minute for short trips, plus tax. Once you hit $12.99 in an hour (which takes 38 minutes), then it's a flat $12.99 an hour, and a maximum of $65.99 per day. There are also charges for driving more than 150 miles.

Like with other car sharing services, car2go pays for gas, insurance, maintenance, and all parking. There's only a $35 one-time fee to join, with no annual fees. They anticipate using the same pricing in DC as in Austin.

Zipcar, by contrast, costs $25 to join (less) but $60 a year (much more). Hourly rates start at $7.75 (less) but require 1-hour minimums, and the daily maximum is a bit more.

In many ways, car2go compared to single-passenger vehicles is analogous to Capital Bikeshare versus owning your own bike. Single-passenger biking requires storing the bike at home, and parking it at the destination. If you bicycle one way, you have to then ride the other way (or leave the bike at work, or take it on Metro or a bus). The same goes for driving.

With car2go's model, as with Capital Bikeshare, people can use cars for one-way trips and use transit, bicycling, walking or something else for other legs of the trip. Like Capital Bikeshare, people who own cars might even find it useful to take car2go, such as if they're out somewhere and want to drive back, or need to get somewhere fast and can't find a cab but would rather not park at the destination all day and can ride transit back.

However, also like Capital Bikeshare, I wonder about cars ending up congregated in certain areas and not available in others. Car2go business development manager Adam Johnson said that they don't anticipate this being a big problem, however, and it hasn't in their other cities. I'm still skeptical, though.

Johnson said cars "tend to gravitate" toward areas where many people use them. Will that mean cars will be difficult to find in other areas? They clearly realize the political importance of serving all parts of the city, and Johnson said they will definitely have cars east of the river, for instance. In fact, he said, car2go's service "generates a lot more accessibility" for people in those areas, where there are few taxis.

But what if someone parks a vehicle in a low density area where there are few members and so the car won't get taken the other way? Or what about all cars flowing toward downtown in the morning and away at night? Johnson said they can do some redistributing, but generally don't have to. He added, "The onus is on us to make sure we have members everywhere."

The spur-of-the-moment nature of car2go might encourage many people to use it who might not use something like Zipcar. Zipcar is great, but there are some psychological barriers. You have to reserve more than enough time to get the car back on time, since someone might be using it after you and you'll get hit with a penalty if you're not back.

When I've used Zipcar, that's sometimes created some stress, where I know I have to leave at a certain time and worry about traffic. It's a feeling somewhat like having to go catch a plane, and it can be unpleasant. With car2go, that's not a concern. Car2go does allow making reservations, though they say most people don't actually end up making them.

What effect would car2go have on traffic? It's great that Capital Bikeshare is lowering the barrier to biking, because it's good for the city to have more people biking. Biking takes up very little road space compared to driving, and the more people ride, the safer it is for everyone.

We don't want to encourage more car trips. Drivers don't want them because the more people drive, the worse the traffic. Non-drivers don't want them because more driving hurts air quality and often makes roads less safe.

Even though it's a service about providing cars, Zipcar actually reduces overall driving. When they opened in Baltimore, the members who joined started walking, biking, and riding transit more. 38% reported taking more than 5 car trips in the previous month, but then only 12% did in the last month, according to a Zipcar survey.

Johnson says car2go hasn't yet been able to collect similar statistics on the effect of their service on driving, but that they believe they, too, lead to reduced car usage and more transit, biking, and walking.

Car2go also has an API for people to be able to integrate it into other web, mobile and other apps. That's important because we're going to see more and more multimodal trip planners, information screens, and other services in the future, showing people all of their travel options from buses to bikes to cars.

More travel options allows us to make more efficient use of our road network and scarce land. Like Zipcar, car2go has the potential to allow far more people to use each car, reducing unsightly or expensive parking space and saving families a lot of money in loans and maintenance.

When people can choose at a moment's notice between a bus, Metro, walking, their own bike, a Capital Bikeshare bike, a Zipcar, a car2go car, and more, living without cars or with fewer cars per person becomes much more convenient and achievable.

Update: Here are a few additional points about the car2go model that some commenters have asked about:

  • Can you just take the car to an office in Herndon and leave it there until evening? No. There will be an initial boundary where you have to end each rental, perhaps the borders of DC. You can drive outside, but have to end inside.
  • What about meters? Johnson said they're still trying to figure that out. If they don't get permission to be at meters but can park in RPP zones, they can just arrange enough garage spaces downtown, and in neighborhoods there is enough room on RPP blocks.
  • Will cars get parked in rush hour only zones and then towed? Users will have to end a rental at a space that's legal to park in all day, not a rush hour only space or something of that nature.
Also, Johnson said in a followup email that they don't see this as an "either/or" between Zipcar and car2go. In fact, he suggested, many people who might not sign up for Zipcar might now do so because combining the two gives more flexibility.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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My goodness that is expensive. 38 minutes = 13.30, not 12.99. So once you hit 40 minutes - do you ge tthe remaining 20 minutes free, then the hourly rate kicks in... or does the hourly rate kick in at the time you hit 40 minutes? And taxes? how much are taxes? Are they per minute as well?

If you thought hunting for a your car in a mall was hard... imagine hunting for a car when you don't know will be.

one way car trips... here I thought those were called taxi's.

by greent on Jul 20, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

Wow, this is really cool. I had no idea a system like this existed and thought that all car sharing used the one car in a set parking spot model. I bet I'll join even though I'm a zipcar member already.

by Shawn on Jul 20, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

If you thought hunting for ayour car in a mall was hard... imagine hunting for a car whenyou don't know will be.

Fixed that for me

by greent on Jul 20, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

greent: You're capped at $12.99. So if you use 37 minutes, you pay $12.95 (37 x 35¢) but if you use 38, it's $12.99, and for 39, it's also still just $12.99, up to 1 hour. In other words, you get the last 22.89 minutes of the hour for free.

by David Alpert on Jul 20, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

One big problem -- all they offer is those stupid SmartCars. This is just a way for Daimler to drop some inventory. Not sure they'll have staying power.

So you've got a different distribution model, a different rental model, and a very different car.

The real kicker would be EV operation.

by charlie on Jul 20, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

I agree with greent's concern. Using the car for trips around the city seems like it would work since there are always a few more nearby. However, a trip into the suburbs means your car could get grabbed, which would leave you stranded.

So car2go and Zipcar each have their niches. If you need a dedicated car for a period of time, go with Zipcar. If you just need to get from point A to B in the city quickly but can Metro or bus back, then car2go sounds better.

I also like David's comment about Zipcar feeling like a flight reservation. Rushing to get a car back on time isn't fun, nor is returning a car 1 hour early and thereby wasting money.

by Tom on Jul 20, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

Alpert: thanks. And the taxes?

And will this be only for DC? Or can you take a car and drop it in Takoma Park?

I probably will not use this. I like Zip, and if I want a one way trip, I like cabs.

by greent on Jul 20, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

What are the rules for parking these cars? Are there designated non-spaces? Can you leave it in any garage after you're done, or just an affiliated garage? How far can you take "just leave it anywhere..."

by Joe in SS on Jul 20, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

There is a really interesting and innovative idea. It also illustrates why government shouldn't pick "winners" such as ZipCar and provide large subsidies to their business model by providing free reserved parking in high demand areas. Doing that discourages other business models that might be better (such as Car2Go) that don't get such a large subsidy. It's best to try to create a level playing field for all businesses and let them compete to provide the best service.

I'm not saying that subsidies are always necessarily bad for a service that provides positive externalities, but the nature of subsidies is that they have unintended, market distorting consequences.

by Falls Church on Jul 20, 2011 3:28 pm • linkreport

But what about street cleaning?

by Dim on Jul 20, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

I can see it now .... eighteen wheelers blocking traffic alongside the cabi vans ! Parking zones would be a bigger thorn in the side of registered car owners than the current giving away of subside to zipcar as this could have a larger impact of taking public parking spaces and privatizing them on a rolling basis. Interesting issues. Makes you wonder who's the winner on the end ... the car providers who make large margins on this, or the consumers who in the end pay more for less ... but are gullible enough to think they're doing it to 'help the environment'!

by Lance on Jul 20, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport


It's true - that it's a bit annoying that they only offer smart cars, but it's different business model with a different purpose. Consider the benefits of a smart car only system...

1) They only need to maintain one type of fleet, which means prices will probably stay stable for much longer (similar to what Southwest Airlines does)

2) Smart Cars take up very little space, and with parking as a never-ending issue for the district, these smaller cars can fit into more spaces more easily.

I'm sure there are other benefits to a single-model fleet, but these are just 2 that come to mind.

by Omeed on Jul 20, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport

I love the idea, but I'll echo the concern over the smartcar only deal:
When I need a car, especially for a one-way trip, it's typically because I'm moving something I couldn't take on a bus, or wouldn't want to take on a cab. Give me a car too small to schlepp biggish stuff, and the advantage of one-way carsharing is severely diminished.

Also, I'm curious how this will work with regard to metered spaces, ramps and the like: who pays when a car stays parked at a metered space for a while?

by Lucre on Jul 20, 2011 3:42 pm • linkreport

Makes you wonder who's the winner on the end ... the car providers who make large margins on this, or the consumers who in the end pay more for less ... but are gullible enough to think they're doing it to 'help the environment'!

Oh man, this is too good to pass up.

1. "the consumers who in the end pay more for less" - if you drive infrequently (like many of us who use zipcar) the costs are FAR less than if you owned a car. That's because the majority of the cost of driving is made up of insurance, registration, and especially depreciation. With car sharing, those costs are shared among all users, making it cheaper for each individual. You have to get up into 7+ hours of driving every week to have the costs reach what just owning any car would cost you.

2. "gullible enough to think they're doing it to help the environment" - no clue where you're going with this. Sharing a car among many users is clearly more environmentally friendly in terms of the materials/energy used to produce said car vs each of them owning their own car. The actual driving done is a wash IF people drive the same amount - but zipcar's surveys show that people who use zipcar drive less - including those who used to own cars and now use zipcar.

by MLD on Jul 20, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

All I see is an army of these little buggers driving to work everyday. It really will encourage people to use them to commute, especially if you can just park them anywhere.

Really, it's going to make traffic much, much worse.

by springroadintoaction on Jul 20, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

Sounds great; I'd love to see this work with airports. I would definitely go to BWI more if there was an easier (than the MARC or Metro) and more cost effective (than taxi or Supershuttle) way to get there and back. Something I could drop off when I arrive (and someone else could use to take home), but then I could also get one when I was heading home.

by Joe on Jul 20, 2011 4:00 pm • linkreport

I think I'm going to sign up for this. I'm going to try to run some calculations to figure out how this compares with taking a taxi.


I think CaBi has like 4 vans. Pretty sure that's a drop in the bucket compared to, say, FedEx. Also consider CaBi is taking at least some cars off the road and it's a net benefit.

by Steven Yates on Jul 20, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

There will be a 2nd gen Smart forfour coming out in 2012, so they may be added to the fleet later

by vanmo96 on Jul 20, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

@ Omeed; all true. But I don't see smartcars are being more efficient with street parking. They can be -- if parked the wrong way -- but the major limitation there is the drivers ability to park. And part time renters do not make good parkers.....

@ vanmo96; given how dismal the sales have been, I don't see Daimler brining the newer models to the US. The market for kei-sized cars just don't exist in the US -- at least not enough to justify the various emissions and crash tests.

by charlie on Jul 20, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

In regards to finding the car in a parking lot: I assume from the comments that all the cars will look the same with the same branding; thus, you'll know what you're looking for when you're in a parking lot...

Glad to read that the cars could be parked in any zone.

I guess if someone parked in a street-cleaning or metered zone and the car received a ticket the system will be able to identify who the previous user was and charge the user in addition to their use fee. It seems as though ZipCar and rental companies have worked through this issue.

Overall, I like this idea. It helps with the later evenings if you don't drive to work, want to take transit to an event, and then you can drive home instead of waiting for the 15+ minute headways.

by Rob on Jul 20, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

I also like the idea of it being used as a vehicle to and from airports; though, the Smart Cars may be too small for the luggage.

by Rob on Jul 20, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

@ Steven Yates: FedEx. Also consider CaBi is taking at least some cars off the road and it's a net benefit.

While I am all for pouncing on Lance, this argument does not make sense. FedEx also takes plenty of cars off the road. Can imagine the extra traffic if all those deliveries would have to be picked up by the addressees? FedEx (UPS/DHL/...) is very efficient in the delivery of their packages.

by Jasper on Jul 20, 2011 4:30 pm • linkreport

My mom just bought a car, and was upset when I told her about this. It would make sense, since most families don't want a two seater, they want something for the kids, too.

by vanmo96 on Jul 20, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

I don't think this will work and will probably be detrimental to the city in the long run.

I'm actively looking at replacing my seldom-used car with car sharing, but this doesn't seem to the best option. Regardless of what Adam Johnson says, it will suffer the same issues that CaBi has, too many bikes in the center and too few in the outer rings. When I need a bike and I can't find one, I have a variety of options. When I NEED a car, likely for longer distances inaccessible by Metro and cargo space, if I can't find one nearby, I'm screwed.

Then there is the issue of putting more cars on the road along with all the VA and MD commuters. DC drivers who use their cars daily likely aren't going to give theirs up so it will be occasional drivers competing with everyone else for parking spots at parking rates that are priced well below demand.

Bike sharing stations, on the other hand, can take 1 or 2 parking spots and serve hundreds daily.

Carsharing doesn't seem to work very well for the spontaneous lunch/dinner drive.

And for those that have a bike and use CaBi for two distinct purposes, I don't think that argument holds the same water for carsharing. If I need a car once or twice a week, why not just take my own? I'm already paying for it and I can park "anywhere" and just lock it up.

by cmc on Jul 20, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

I'm also skeptical it'll work. Although I think a better bike comparison would be Munich's Dial-a-Bike which operates without docks.

I'd be more excited if they were using the new Fiat 500s. Those things are cool.

by TM on Jul 20, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

Everybody keeps yelling about the city "giving" high-demand public spaces to Zipcar.

Where are these spaces? Every single Zipcar I've ever used has been located on a private lot.

Honest question -- how many spots does DC give to Zipcar? I suspect it's a pretty small number.

And, to be honest, I'd rather carsharing be operated as a highly-regulated monopoly (under some sort of franchise arrangement). It'd suck to have to maintain accounts on more than one carsharing system. Carsharing benefits tremendously from the network effect; It's one of those weird industries where competition arguably decreases efficiency.

by andrew on Jul 20, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

@vanmo96; I think the operating word in that article is "may"

I can see long term benefit to Daimler for CAFE requirements. You import a smartforfour, use it in the rental market, but get the CAFE benefits that allow you to sell some S classes. I think that might become more common as the CAFE requirements close up loopholes. Coming soon -- electric rental porsches!

by charlie on Jul 20, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

So in running the numbers for most scenarios car2go (not surprisingly) is cheaper. How much money you save is mainly dependent on how fast you can go (because the can is based mainly on distance and car2go on time. For instance, if you wanted to go ten miles and you could average 25mph it would cost 17.75 in a cab (this generously assumes no extra fees, like idle time, fuel surcharge, or even tip) versus $8.40 (plus tax) for car2go. But at 15 mph car2go hits it's flat fee of 12.99.

by Steven Yates on Jul 20, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

@Steven Yates,
Is the average driving speed in DC 25 mph?

by cmc on Jul 20, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

I don't know if I would call this "innovative." Here's the basic concept: let people rent cars and park them whereever they want. People have had that idea since before Zipcar even existed.

Anyway, it opens up all sorts of logistical problems. Where can I park it? Bethesda? Rockville? Germantown? Frederick? In my apartment building's locked parking garage? What if I park it by a meter and the meter runs out? If I rent a car, how do I find it? Does Daimler even have to bid for the former Zipcar spaces, since these cars don't really have homes?

by Tim on Jul 20, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport


Probably not, but it's not inconceivably fast either. I ran a trip from my home to a friends (both in the District) and Google said I'd average a little under 24 mph. But say you wanted to go 5 miles at 15 mph, car2go is still $3 cheaper.

by Steven Yates on Jul 20, 2011 5:06 pm • linkreport

I'm fascinated how Lance is simultaneously against alternative transportation and against taking a trip by car!

by JustMe on Jul 20, 2011 5:38 pm • linkreport

I don't think this will work and will probably be detrimental to the city in the long run.

I don't see how this is going to be a detrimental to the city in the long run. My guess is that the scheme will fail in the short- to medium-run.

Aside from the various critiques above, what possible niche does it serve that taxis, Zip Car, CaBi, and public transportation don't already fill?

by oboe on Jul 20, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport


Seems to me that all your questions will be simply answered when they actually get ready to roll the system out. No doubt there will be some kind of zone where you can leave the car (e.g. you won't be able to drop the car off in Frederick probably). You won't be able to drop the car off in your building's locked parking garage - in order for the system to work others have to be able to access the cars. If you run out a meter and the car gets a ticket you will pay the cost of the ticket and a penalty just like with zipcar. If you rent a car they will know where it is via GPS and you will be able to see it on a map either on your computer or a smartphone.

As for spaces, I assume they will pay a bigger price to the city for RPP for their cars since they will be able to park anywhere.

The logistical problems are solved by instituting a set of rules (simple) and then enforcing those rules via heavy fines, just like Zipcar does.

by MLD on Jul 20, 2011 5:43 pm • linkreport


I don't see car sharing as something that should be a regulated monopoly like electricity. Is it really so bad to carry 2 or 3 accounts at $25 to 35 a year to avoid the possibility of being stuck with a single provider as bad as PEPCO?

by Falls Church on Jul 20, 2011 5:57 pm • linkreport

"If you run out a meter and the car gets a ticket you will pay the cost of the ticket and a penalty just like with zipcar."

Yes, so then you could never "leave" the car anywhere downtown (are there unmetered legal spots in downtown?) Or will you be able to "leave" a car downtown when meters are not enforced, and "someone" will move the car for you? You can "leave" the car in a restricted rushhour parking area at 9:30 am.. would you be responsible for the ensuing ticket if the car is still there at 3pm when the rush hour limit goes into effect?

by greent on Jul 20, 2011 6:15 pm • linkreport

Several times a week, my wife and I have to go to night school out in suburbia. We're a one-car household.

We have considered getting a ZipCar membership to help with the crunch on those days, but it wouldn't work well because we would want to leave from work and then return to our house after class.

I would definitely consider using this system to alleviate the crunch on those days, provided that it is well-implemented.

by J on Jul 20, 2011 6:56 pm • linkreport

@JustMe, 'I'm fascinated how Lance is simultaneously against alternative transportation and against taking a trip by car!

Did I say I was against this? No ... not at all. I was just pointing out some of its shortcomings that we all need to deal with so that we can be in the driver's seat as far as how it operates here in the District ... Unlike ZipCar where it has been very much in control since the beginning. For starters, I'd advocate for no free parking for this commercial endevour. I mean Daimler is far richer than most of us taxpayers ... and even the District itself is having problems paying its bills. I'd prefer no on street car storage for anyone in this city in those areas where curb space is limited, but if we're going to be using the curb space for car storage purposes, then let's be sure that Daimler pays full fare for this parking. Yeah, it's not reserved parking and therefore not the going $200 - $250 per month that a downtown spot gets, but it's also worth a lot more than a $20 RPP sticker. If there're going to store their cars in our RPP zones then the city needs to receive lots of mula for each car allowed to do so. Secondly, if they're going to be allowed to park at meters and the like, that should be even more mula. Let's not subsidize this business model like we did ZipCar. And from the other end, as consumers we need to sit down and figure 'is this really economical over the long run?' I remember a time when a owning and operating a car was fairly inexpensive. It's still not that expensive ... at least not when you consider what owning and operating a car in Europe costs. And the reason for the difference? The Europeans have guilibly fallen for the line that 'it's better for everyone if most people use mass transit'. Yeah, it's better for the wealthy who want less traffic to deal with and more available parking. For those for whom money is no object, Europe's policies of making it difficult (i.e. EXPENSIVE) to own and operate a car is their way of keeping the good life to themselves without having to build enough car infrastructure to ensure the good life for everyone. The average person there gets pushed into second class status ... having to schlepp it on the train, ride a bike, or walk ... and similarly has their work and social opportunities constrained by where the schlepping will take them. There's a reason it's not the land of opportunity over there ... The wealthy have ways of keeping a handle on their monopoly of the good life, and this is one of them. So, before we start advocating for policies that push us down that same path let's keep in mind that part of what differentiates us for the better is that rather than looking how to allocate 'what is' (with the better parts going to the rich) we look at how to makes things better for all. The mid-20th Century ideal of building more cities, more shopping, more office space, AND more roads and cars to get us there, sure served us a lot better than Europe's policies served them. Some 60 - 70 years on from where we parted ways has left us able to accomodate a growth rate (both internal and from immigration) which would have pushed Europe into total chaos had it attempted it based on its 'allocate what's already here' mentality. We instead have not only absorbed a far greater number of people desiring the American dream but accomplished it in a manner where we haven't had to push to be 'economical' about everything on the mistaken belief that 'we only have so much to go around' ...

by Lance on Jul 20, 2011 6:58 pm • linkreport

Is there a limit to how far you can go with this? What if I take it out to work in Herndon, park it in my office parking garage. I assume I don't pay for it when not driving? I even like the chances it would still be there when I need to come home. There seem to be all sorts of business cases that could throw this concept for a loop.

by NikolasM on Jul 20, 2011 7:29 pm • linkreport

@Lance: The Europeans have guilibly fallen for the line that 'it's better for everyone if most people use mass transit'.

Lance is on my ignore list, but I just wanna mention that Lance's description of Europe's car policies is just a accurate as Lance's description of everything else...

by Jasper on Jul 20, 2011 9:05 pm • linkreport

For all of you who are asking "What if I do X?" or "What is their rule about Y?", you might want to check out the web site for car2go in Austin, which explains how everything works there. I'd be pretty certain things will be very similar here. The site is at

by Rob on Jul 20, 2011 9:30 pm • linkreport

@Rob, Thanks for the link. With a little photoshopping, they can even use the same homepage! (Just blur out the bottom street half ... and leave the dome and the trees!) Talk about plug and play! ;)

by Lance on Jul 20, 2011 10:04 pm • linkreport

Honestly, this sounds brilliant. It's a lot closer to the car-sharing service I have long wanted ZipCar to be. The problem with ZipCar to me is that I often only need a car for a one-way trip. With car2go, you could walk or take transit to the grocery store or other shopping destination, then drive home with your packages. You could drive back when returning home after Metro has shut down for the night. You could drive over to your date's house so you don't get all sweaty, then walk home the next morning when you aren't worried about how you look. You could take car2go form your neighborhood where it's tough to get a cab, then get a taxi from your more popular destination home. Whatever. The flexibility really appeals to me.

The main potential drawback that I echo of others is if it only offers one car model. There really might be times when you need a larger car to pick up family at the airport, say, or to get home a new couch. It would probably be a rare need for me, though. That's probably one of the arguments for holding two different carshare accounts.

Oh, and I'm sure those who use ZipCar are aware, you can extend your rental window while you have a car by phone or online so long as no one has reserved the same car for the time period right after your reservation. It can help reduce some of that stress over getting the car back in time. I did this a couple of times when using ZipCar through my old firm when I had to drive to the suburbs to meet with consultants and had the meeting run longer than planned. (Side note: Firms in the city that have corporate carsharing accounts are AMAZING. I don't know how many do this, but it's simply a brilliant way to prevent your employees having to drive to work downtown even if they may have to visit clients or consultants whose offices are in the 'burbs.)

by Bryant Turnage on Jul 21, 2011 12:47 am • linkreport

There are lots of dedicated spaces for Zipcar around the city, in commercial districts, etc. In 2005, when I first wrote about it, I said that they should have to pay for these spots (and they do).

But later I wrote about how I had it wrong, that this perspective privileges car owners at the expense of car users--in either case they are residents of the city--although sure, technically the car users are served through a for profit company (but what if it were nonprofit like the one in Toronto?).

If DC had a transpo. plan like Arlington's, with an element on parking and curbside management, presumably the priority within the element would be to support overall plan goals focused on throughput and reduction of the demand for car ownership.

Therefore, car sharing is to be supported as a way to reduce car ownership and the demand for parking inventory in the public space. Hence, it's reasonable to provide dedicated spaces.

by Richard Layman on Jul 21, 2011 7:07 am • linkreport

Will it be possible as a member of car2go in one city (say...Austin) to access the system in another city (say...DC)?

by Garrett on Jul 21, 2011 7:12 am • linkreport

One thing I don't understand is how you refuel the car. The article says "car2go pays for gas", but how do you get more fuel? Do I have to pay the 0.35 for each minute I'm sitting at a gas station filling up the tank?

(On a zipcar you pay to refuel the car, but since you pay by the 1/2 hour it doesn't cost more.)

by Jonathan B on Jul 21, 2011 10:08 am • linkreport

Jonathan: They give you a 10 minute credit for filling up the tank.

by David Alpert on Jul 21, 2011 10:12 am • linkreport

@Jonathan - you don't pay for fuel with Zipcar - there's a gas card in the visor.

by Awshux on Jul 21, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

@Awshux - The context is a little confusing, but I meant "pay" in regards to paying for time. (I'm a member of ZipCar, so I know about the gasoline fleet payment card.)

by Jonathan B on Jul 21, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

Amazing that DC would buy into such a scheme without having any data (Daimler admits this) to determine its impact and efficacy. There is no doubt in my mind that people will get off of bikes, stop walking as much, decline taking the bus when this service is introduced. While this might be convenient (certainly more than Zipcar), its is unlikely to be environmentally sound.

For once, I'd like to see our local government do a bit of due diligence and determine the impact of a service that affects every one of us - regardless of whether we use the service or not. What will it do to jobs - seems taxi drivers are about to be hit? Will driving on our roads increase? What about parking - its already difficult in some areas and now these cars can eat up needed space? Whose paying for the use of the public right of way? Its not as if Daimler is a nonprofit corporation so (quite understandably) they need to make money off of this - which means Daimler needs us all to be driving more which creates more congestion and more greenhouse gas emissions.

Come on DC... ask some questions before buying into this scheme.

by Tala on Jul 21, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

I take issue with this link that some people are drawing between car sharing and increased variability of transit modes, especially in Baltimore. That city is going through a bit of a public transit renaissance right now, and more people are starting to move back into intown neighborhoods. It only makes sense that this would coincide with increased transit and walking trips, whether or not there is Zipcar.

As for car2go, it sounds like a fine idea (though, the Smartcars are kind of silly as they have very little cargo capacity), but Zipcar could easily compete by simply modifying its service to allow one-way trips... perhaps without any additional charge, or perhaps for a small extra fee. This would really, really expand Zipcar's usefulness for a lot of people.

Also, I rent Zipcars pretty often and I have not seen rate as low as $7.75 in quite some time, even on weekdays.

To the person who asked about whether Zipcars take public spaces, they indeed do. I think the city gives about 86 other-wise metered spaces over to Zipcar. The city values each space at $60,000-$80,000 worth of revenue per year.

by Scoot on Jul 21, 2011 1:49 pm • linkreport

From teh website Rob posted: car2go has some dedicated parking spaces in Austin. AND it says you can park at any meter... how do they pay the city for that will be interesting.

It says the driver is responsible for any illegal parking. So... avoid all rush hour areas, for if you park there, and the car is towed, it's on you.

Zipcar.. I'll stick with you.

by greent on Jul 21, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport


The best way to see if things work well is to try them out. This isn't like building a highway or skyscraper that will be here for the next 100 years. The "impact study" is the actual implementation of the program. What you advocate is a recipe for inertia.

by JustMe on Jul 21, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

Im gonna park all the cars in "bad" areas of town and see if people actually go get them.

by blackdontcrack on Jul 21, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

It's more helpful to think of car2go as something different than Zipcar-style carsharing - now starting to be referred to as "mobility on demand". It satisfies a different kind of trip - some which will overlap with carsharing round trips. But it also seems likely that car2go could replace certain "high value" transit trips and possible even a few shorter walking or cycling trips. Having another transportation option in mix will be an important value in unhooking people from feeling the need to own a car (or 2).

by Dave on Jul 21, 2011 6:07 pm • linkreport

WRT "The city values each space at $60,000-$80,000 worth of revenue per year."

Holy s***. At $60,000, that values the space at $6.87/hour 24/7/365. So that makes the $15/year residential parking permit pretty cost effective... But in any case, I don't think that number is realistic. Especially for the non- metered spaces in RPP zones (and not every non-metered block is RPP), which we have to value at $15/year + whatever the parking violation revenue numbers are for residential violations, divided by the total inventory of parking spaces. On that basis, maybe a residential space is worth about $100-$200/year on average, although in dense neighborhoods likely the violation revenue is higher than less dense neighborhoods. Of course, that doesn't mean that the spaces are properly valued...

WRT $7.75/hour for Zipcars, I guess it's dependent on the location. The cars at Blair Road and 4th St. NW cost $7.75/hour, at least they did recently.

I don't care enough to root around for some general industry data, but I will keep an eye out for it. I do know the standard rule of thumb is that when you convert from meters to multispace meters and other options that revenues increase 30-40%.



by Richard Layman on Jul 21, 2011 11:25 pm • linkreport

The reason you won't have to worry about cars being unavailable in some areas: it takes much less effort to drive a car uphill.

by Omar on Jul 22, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

I'm a Car2Go member in Vancouver, and it's ok. A few observations after two months of service:

Dead zones:
I live right on the edge of the service area (I'm assuming that Herndon's not going to be in the service area) and after driving home, the car sat on my block for a few days, so there are definitely some slow areas. The cars did move (or C2G moved them) eventually.

It's great for trips that are awkward by transit, but that you don't really want to drive yourself, or if you're running late. An app that would calculate trip length comparing transit and C2G would be handy, with the ability to vary value of time according to your hurry, would be great. It doesn't really compete where transit is really good, or out in the burbs where densities are quite low. More of a streetcar suburb type thing.

The smart car is a novelty, but a bit limiting- you can park it and fit it in any spot (on-street or designated spots downtown, not in your locked parkade), which is nice, but they don't carry much. I managed to squeeze my mountain bike in, but with lots of stress, as the meter was running. Bike racks would be a really good upgrade, as they'd be useful where you're riding but running late, or it starts pouring, or you get a flat, or it's late, or you're tired).

The running meter sure makes you a worse driver. I definitely run more yellows and take more chances and go faster in a C2G than in my own car, on a bike, or in a Zipcar (also a member). You don't want to burn time sitting at a crosswalk waiting for someone if the clock is ticking... similar to being a taxi passenger (though if I was a taxi driver, I'd probably be a little slower, to run the meter up (within reason).

Enjoy the service, it's neat (I really don't use it much, had to 'make' a reason for my few trips), and it seems well executed (solid quantity of cars and good distribution) and well used (based on me looking around outside) here.

by DB on Jul 22, 2011 4:50 pm • linkreport

I think that car sharing and having a rental loaner program is a great way to address many problems. Bike rental and loaner programs really work- why not cars?

by Joan on Jul 23, 2011 12:38 am • linkreport

What's the source for the story? The article doesn't mention where the information of Car2Go's plans come from.

by Clayton Lane on Jul 23, 2011 5:28 pm • linkreport

MLD...Lance believes that every red-blooded American NEEDS a car, and not having one is due to either being poor or stupid. He's already heard stories from people like me who save about $1500/year by using a car-share instead of owning my own car (and that was on a car I owned $3600/year before paying it off), DESPITE the hourly or per-mile cost of driving being higher for car-sharing services, and DESPITE the fact that $1500/year is not a budget-maker for me (but is a nice bonus that allows me to have more fun!). But he's got his blinders on and his fingers in his ears, and he's not going to hear what anyone has to say about the benefits, with our without experience, with or without evidence.

That said...I LIKE this idea, but I share some of the same concerns about not being able to find a car when and where I would want one. Also, the smart car thing. I also use Zipcar for grocery shopping and hauling large items, and one of the most important parts of that is knowing that I'll have a car when all the groceries are purchased or the new closet doors are ready to go (just an example of what I'll be doing with a Zipcar next weekend). I guess I'd just have to see. I shop near where many people live, so finding a car on Saturday morning would probably be impossible, but I could always shop at another time wouldn't kill me, like times when residents may have used the cars to get home from somewhere, and if saw lots of those cars parked around my stores at times I could access the grocery store, it might make sense to join. After all, it's only about a 6-10 minute drive from the grocery store to my house, and I can pay by the minute, Metro to the store, and leave the car in front of my house when I'm done? Sold...if I could be sure that I'd get a car.

by Ms. D on Jul 25, 2011 3:11 am • linkreport

A friend of mine in Vancouver uses this service to go home because it:

1) is cheaper than a taxi
2) she goes all the way home because she can park it anywhere
3) is faster than public transit

by Ali on Aug 3, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

Zip Car and car2go are far more expensive than when we rent from Enterprise. We usually rent when they have special deals which for a basic car totals $23/per day (includes insurance) plus gas. They frequently give us a nicer vehicle than the class we've reserved. If we rent a car for a day at regular rate it's about $36/day (includes insurance) plus gas. With a regular rental company, like Enterprise, there is no sign-up charge, nor is there a yearly fee. Although ostensibly "easier" to get a Zip or car2go vehicle, I'd rather spend the 30 minutes on public transportation (costs me $2-$3 to get to the Enterprise location running special deal), or if the Enterprise near me has a special they will pick me up - than to rent from Zip or car2go. Even with higher gas prices, Enterprise (and probably other traditional rental companies) are much less expensive. My husband and I have never understood the appeal for Zip Car and other car share programs.

by Pilar on Mar 1, 2012 2:57 pm • linkreport

"We don't want to encourage more car trips. Drivers don't want them because the more people drive, the worse the traffic. Non-drivers don't want them because more driving hurts air quality and often makes roads less safe."

I don't agree. I do wish for increased car ownership in Washington. As someone who for the past several years has been depending on both Metro rail and bus, as well as biking (until stolen in Dupont), car ownership is the true path to independence (financial and otherwise).

What I wish for in this area is for employers to offer flex hours so that everyone is not on the road at the same time. And for DC government to fix traffic flow areas like 16th St between Shepherd & Park.

Although when we have a car we use Rock Creek to travel downtown and do so in 10 mins even at the height of rush hour. Know-how-navigation of Rock Creek and car ownership = bliss.

If you're spending $50 week or more on Metro, plus using a car share program it doesn't make much sense not to own your own car. It's so affordable now to purchase a new fuel-efficient vehicle it doesn't make much sense not to.

by Pilar on Mar 1, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

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