car2gowithstreetcar
Car2Go Promo Photo

Just 7 months since entering the Seattle carsharing market with 350 cars, and just 4 months after expanding to 430 cars due to unprecedented demand, Car2Go announced this week that it is again expanding. By mid-August the Car2Go fleet will number 500 cars, 43% larger than the next largest U.S. city (Washington DC – 350), and edging out Vancouver BC (450) for the largest fleet in North America. (See STB’s previous reporting on Car2Go here, here, and here, and our comparison between Zipcar and Car2Go here.)

Don’t expect any further expansions in the near future, however. The Seattle Municipal Code (11.23.160, B) caps free-floating carsharing permits at 500 annually, so Car2Go will be unable to expand again without new council legislation.

63 Replies to “Car2Go Expanding Again”

  1. In DC, car2go complements a generally functioning public transit system. In Seattle, it replaces an excruciating one whenever possible.

    Our unprecedented demand is not an accident.

    Yet Metro wants more money to preserve their terribleness unaltered.

    1. I hope someone is scraping the Car2Go API for data. Looking at trip O-D pairs and the time of day could really provide some hard evidence for the gaps in the transit network.

      1. The city should be looking at the data and figuring out if they are under or over charging for the permits. Could be the cars spend very little time in paid parking and the rates should be decreased or maybe they spend more than originally estimated and the yearly permits needs to be increased.

      2. Seattleite, SDOT does this (using GPS), it’s how Car2go’s parking prices are determined.

    2. I knew DP was going to say that Car2Go’s popularity is due to Metro’s inadequacy….

      We don’t need to look far for gaps. Ballard to Capitol Hill and Fremont to Capitol Hill have been widely reported. Ballard to Lake City and Ballard to Sand Point are other biggies. Night owl north of 85th is another glaring omission.

      1. Lack of weekend service to Northgate is a biggie. Of course Car2Go supplements service gaps. That’s why its useful or to pick up stuff that isn’t great to transport on the bus or you need to get somewhere quickly that Metro can’t provide. This just points to why we need MORE service and a better service. But more than anything, we need a Seattle Subway because Metro will never be able to provide time-competitive service. That doesn’t mean that Metro is mired in terrible neglect like d.p. might like to suggest.

      2. Corollary question: I’ve only once tried to transport anything large (a suitcase) in a car2go, and I couldn’t for the life of me get the back hatch to open. The suitcase wound up riding in (and probably dirtying) the passenger seat.

        Have you had any luck opening the back?

      3. Metro is not mired in neglect. It’s mired in inertia. There’s a difference.

        Though if it thinks people will continue to pay more in fares and taxes for obviously diminishing returns, it’s also mired in denial.

      4. I haven’t tried opening the back hatch yet, partly because I don’t remember the instructions on how to do it. There was something about popping open the window (a button on the dash? on the remote?) and flipping some latches that are then exposed.

      5. I wouldn’t think opening a window would be necessary.

        There is a normal, old-fashioned manual trunk-release latch on the exterior, but it just didn’t seem to work. Either it was broken on this particular vehicle, or it must first be unlocked in some non-obvious way.

        I haven’t tried to rely on car2go for any suitcase-bearing trips since.

      6. I vaguely remember reading something about the ignition key having a button to unlock the hatch, although I’ve personally never tried it. No reason to increase my bill by paying for whatever time it takes to figure it out when I can just put my luggage in the passenger seat and be done.

      7. Re: the Car2Go hatch, you have to hit the unlock button on the dash to get it to open. It’s off behavior (I can open the doors, why not the hatch?), but minor once you know about it. I do it all the time to store whatever bag I’m carrying, since I often have a passenger.

      8. Thank you, Will and Jason!

        If you are able to describe to me the general location on the dashboard, it will be much appreciated!

      9. There’s a button bearing an unlock symbol. It’s underneath the main display, just to the right of your hazards.

      10. Okay, I was in four cars2go this weekend, and I can’t for the life of me identify this button! To the right of the hazards, only one button was marked with a symbol, and it didn’t strike me as an “unlock” or “release” symbol.

        I did notice that a few of the Smartcars have two-piece keyrings, with the key itself separate from the button fob. Those fobs have a symbol on them that clearly intends to release the trunk. The more common keys with buttons embedded do not appear to have trunk-release buttons.

        Such bafflement!

      11. This is too odd. I only replied with the exact location yesterday after we actually used a Car2Go to get from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne—wanted to double-check b/c I hadn’t actually used the back hatch in awhile. The symbol, if I recall, is an unopened padlock. Maybe we need a C2G-based meetup!

      12. Okay, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was indeed a padlock, but it just didn’t scream “this relates to the trunk” to me.

        Maybe that’s how it works: the car2go satellite signal unlocks everything except the trunk. The “padlock” button unlocks everything, including the trunk.

        Next time I’ll just press that button and see what happens.

      13. Oh, it’s certainly—as someone upthread mentioned—terrible engineering. And I mistyped, it’s the *unlocked* padlock symbol, obviously.

      14. Even if night owl service did exist north of 85th, almost nobody would ride it (except people using the bus as a roving homeless shelter, which shouldn’t count). Basically, at that hour of the night, the modal hierarchy of preferences among nearly everyone is as follows (many options are not available for everyone, of course)
        1) Drive your own car (if you have one and it’s working)
        2) Get friend or relative to drive you (if someone is willing)
        3) Rent a car for the entire day you are going to be out late from Zipcar, Enterprise, etc. (if you can afford it)
        4) Car2Go (if you are a member and you don’t have to carry more than one passenger, and a vehicle is sufficiently close and you don’t need to travel out of the home area)
        5) Lyft/Sidecar/Uber/etc. (if you can afford it and you have an Android or IPhone and you don’t have an irrational fear of using the service)
        6) Taxi (if you can afford it)
        7) Walk (if distance is sufficiently short, for instance, under a mile)
        8) Wait up to an hour and a half outside for the bus and usually end up walking a considerable distance anyway (in extremely rare cases when OBA says the bus is coming soon and your origin and destination happen to align with stops along the same bus ride and you have figured out the night-owl quirkiness and you don’t mind sharing a ride with homeless drunks, the ranking of this option may improve)

        I do realize that “never” is an extremely strong word so I won’t say that such a bus would never be ridden. But I will venture to predict that the ridership on any night-owl bus north of 85th would have ridership so low that the cost per rider would likely exceed the cost of a taxi. In other words, money spent to operate a service like this would be better spent on other trips.

        It should also be noted that most people are out very late a night pretty rarely, so the dollar cost of getting home is less of a big deal than the dollar cost of getting home from work, which is a trip that you have to make 5 times every week.

      15. @jason

        I would actually really appreciate a meetup where people held one another’s hands (figuratively) through a car2go use-cycle: reservation, unlock, opening the trunk, gassing up, re-lock / tap-out. Could be the early leg of some bar / coffee-house hopping activity.

        I almost had to use one this weekend, going so far as to make a reservation, but managed to hail a cab as I was hustling to the car and cancelled it. I was under a time crunch. It would have been an extraordinarily tense experience if I couldn’t figure out some step of the process.

    3. D.P. – How is cutting Metro funding going to improve the situation? What can Metro do with the funding they have to make things better? You do realize that they have already done pretty much all the low-hanging fruit stuff, right? Your D.C. comment makes it seem like you want a better transit system. Are you just not willing to pay for it?

      1. You must be new here! ;-)

        Suffice to say that there is plenty of remaining low-hanging efficiency fruit — stuff that would actually improve the user experience exponentially, even if it meant Metro wouldn’t be able to boast of its own route complexity or massive number of bus-miles traveled anymore.

        But let’s save that for the next post that directly addresses the cuts threat.

    4. I agree, as someone who owns a car, the time penalty for using metro on anything other than peak commute trips to downtown and back again is just simply too much.

      Parking is still free and available most places outside of downtown and easy to find if you know where to look and are willing to walk a few blocks extra

    5. +1 – Expensive, last mile coverage routes need to die in favor of high capacity / high frequency routes where investments in dedicated lanes, TSP, and improved stops will benefit a greater number of passengers. Car2Go, along with walking, biking, and exploding options for car services (Flat rate for hire, Lyft, Sidecar, UberX, Uber…) can fill in the gaps for those of us who live at the edges of where transit truly makes sense.

      I’ll still ride the 249 in my neighborhood but at the same time I’ll be begging Metro to take away my bus. I don’t need it and my neighbors, for the most part, don’t use it. I’m perfectly happy for those hours to help others stay carless and relieve overall congestion. (Meanwhile, I can still bike to the P&R)

      1. The technology already exists to enable on-demand van transit (dial-a-ride, if you will) serving lower-density ridership areas, rather than full buses on fixed routes. We just need to implement it. Just access an app, provide departure/destination times/locations and have a van arrive to pick you up by a designated time (within 15-20 minutes?).

  2. From Metro’s standpoint, they want more money so they don’t become terribleness on steroids.

      1. [comment complaining]

        It’s ridiculous that Metro’s false dichotomy (more money or worse service) should stand unchallenged, when in fact their planners have already been directed to devise a more efficient and possibly better network that can run on a smaller budget.

      2. More efficient? Possibly, in the sense that poorer-performing service would be cut first and the remaining service would carry more passengers for less money.

        But better? Really? Frequency and speed are not going to improve — anywhere — under a 17% cut. If route consolidation happens in the cut scenario, it’s going to turn two mediocre routes into one mediocre route, not two mediocre routes into one excellent route. Trust me, I’ve just come out of a long exercise of crunching all the numbers — to make concrete improvements to service quality, rather than improvements only to efficiency, you need at least the current level of resources.

      3. They will if you get rid of the hundreds of detours and route quirks and stop running ill-coordinated infrequent services three blocks from one another. And stop coddling cash-fumblers.

        But again, let’s address this on the next “17% Cuts, 100% Fear” post.

  3. Car2go is great,but if they are expanding they actually need to go to the city limits. Large parts of Southeast and West Seattle still aren’t included.

      1. The further you get away from downtown, the longer cars will tend to sit before being used again, and the more the pattern in which the cars do get used will lean towards peak-period commutes to and from downtown. Car2Go works best when demand tends to consist of a lot of people traveling at all times, in scattered directions.

        That’s not to say some area expansion is not justified. For future area expansions, my top priorities would be going south in the Ranier Valley to at least Othello Station, a parking area around SeaTac (for late-night travelers that need to go to or from the airport outside of Link’s service hours, this may involve an additional fee to drop off a car here), Northgate P&R lot, the UW parking lot next to Husky Stadium and the future Link station (at least on non-game days). After this, I would vote for an expansion to the eastside to include areas such as downtown Bellevue, Microsoft, the RapidRide B corridor, in general, Bellevue College, Eastgate P&R, downtown Kirkland, downtown Redmond, and Factoria Mall. Although parking issues would make expansion to the eastside extremely politically difficult.

      2. People already park the cars at the Northgate TC (the P&R was demolished to make room for a useless park). I’ve also seen cars parked in the Mall parking lot.

    1. Agreed. the boundary for Car2Go is 1 mile north of me. And for that matter, What about expansion to nearby suburbs like Shorline, Lake Forest Park or Renton?

    2. I recall seeing a couple of them on a Saturday afternoon on Fauntleroy, a few blocks east of Morgan Junction; also saw one 35th SW a few blocks south of Alaska. But I’m sure these were outliers for our neck of the woods.

      1. I know they park near the Fauntleroy ferry terrminal because people on the forum of the West Seattle Blog have been complaining about them taking up parking spaces–they said there were 16 of them parked there the other day.

      2. @Norah: Interesting. Connecting transit to the ferry is sort of weird and the area that it would serve is not super walkable, so it’s not surprising there’s some P&R demand there. Are there a lot of parking spaces near the terminal with time length restrictions but not time-of-day restrictions?

      3. The Car2Go service area is currently set up so that all the Car2Go parking within a mile or so of the ferry terminal is concentrated within a couple blocks. A decent chunk of the people who park there might actually be residents of home half a mile away who are parking there for no reason other than that’s the only place they are allowed to park.

        It is also a great service for Vashon residents visiting Seattle who are looking for an alternative to taking a car on board the ferry – especially if they are willing to ride the C line one direction.

  4. Don’t expect any further expansions in the near future, however. The Seattle Municipal Code (11.23.160, B) caps free-floating carsharing permits at 500 annually, so Car2Go will be unable to expand again without new council legislation.

    They actually had to go back to council after launch to get the cap lifted to 500. The council has been pretty accommodating so far, so I wouldn’t think getting new legislation would be too much of a hindrance.

  5. It’s pretty insane how there is never a single car in downtown (denny to yesler, I-5 to the water), EVER after 5 PM. If one shows up, it’s gone in 30 seconds.

    1. Precisely the reason not to do what Reality Based Commute suggests.

      Cars that jaunt off to the suburban lowlands never come back.

  6. Perhaps only peripherally related, but is there a limit to how far from downtown Seattle a Car2Go vehicle can be driven? I saw one pass through downtown Snoqualmie last Sunday afternoon.

    1. Not per se, but the pricing structure disinsentivizes such behavior. There’s a fairly low number of daily miles included in the rental, additional miles are expensive, and the daily maximum seems pretty steep to me. [Admitedly, since I’m a resident car owner, I don’t rent locally, so I don’t really know the local going rate at somewhere like Enterprise]

      1. If you do the math, the Car2Go daily rate is actually about $7 cheaper than Zipcar ($85 vs. $92, including tax). Assuming, of course, you don’t need to carry more than 2 people or travel beyond 150 miles.

      2. asdf: Depends on the car, and if you have a monthly membership or not. The most basic monthly Zipcar plan gives you a 10% discount, and at that point any cost difference is minimal given how much nicer the cars are. When you factor in the difference in included miles, it’s a definite win for Zipcar.

      3. True, but the difference in miles only matters if you are actually planning to travel further than the 150 mile Car2Go limit allows. Depending on what trip you are renting the car for, this may or may not matter. There are also a lot of neighborhoods out there where the nearest Zipcar is half a mile or more away (especially if you are booking at the last minute and the Zipcar closest to you is already taken at the time you need it). Meanwhile, in many residential neighorhoods of Seattle, especially on weekends, you can pretty reliably depend on finding a Car2Go less than 1/4 mile away, sometimes even closer. And, even if you have to walk a ways to pick up the car, you can still return it right in front of your house.

        A Zipcar extra-value membership definitely tips the scales in favor of Zipcar for day-long trips, though, although in my case, I simply don’t rent cars often enough for all-day trips to justify the $50/month commitment.

        That being said, though, my most recent all-day car rental did go to Zipcar, as I had two parents visiting from out of town, and the fact that Car2Go vehicles only hold 2 people made it out of the question. Maybe, someday Zipcar will get into the free-floating car share business and offer cars that can accommodate a family of four.

      4. “If you do the math, the Car2Go daily rate is actually about $7 cheaper than Zipcar ($85 vs. $92, including tax). ”

        I rented a 4 door sedan from Enterprise for $25/day last week.

      5. I once rented a car for a mere $15/day from Enterprise. But, at the end of the day, it still ended up a mere $5 cheaper than Zipcar, in exchange for considerably more hassle picking up the car and returning it. Why? Here’s the breakdown:

        $15 (base price for the day)
        + $15 (I needed the car from 5 AM to 8 PM on a Sunday. Limit office hours forced me to rent the car for two days, even though I only need it for one)
        + $30 (liability insurance – since I don’t own a car or have a regular insurance policy, buying insurance from the rental company is the only option. It costs $15 per day, including the day I didn’t actually need the car. This was with self-insuring for potential damage to the rental car itself)
        + $5 (taxes and fees)
        + $21 (gas)
        = $86 (grand total)

  7. I find it amusing that STB and its minions tout the Car+Mass Transit model when it’s inside Seattle and with a trendy service like Car2Go, but lambastes the suburban car+parking+commuter rail model that others support. It seems like both topologies find that at the last mile there is something lacking with fixed route mass transit that will never be solved either through urban design or mass transportation. Design and trunk lines have their purpose, but people need personal transit as well, to get from their homes, to carry goods and participate in the warehouse-retail marketplace and for trips not served well by transit systems.

    1. I’ve never understood this allure to Car2Go. I was always taught to own my luxuries…not rent them.
      If you plug up the street grid with (not-so) Smart cars, poorly fund transit, and then expect those in the burbs to fund the “pie in the sky” projects that would only benefit those who like to take (not-so) Smart cars around town, what do you think will happen?

      I agree with John that it’s odd that the blog is promoting urban car sharing. Those that cannot afford to live in town or decide to live outside of town in favor of space and “freedom” is the benefit of living in the United States. It’s the freedom of choice. To see the rationalization of “shared” automobile use proves the hypocrisy of the many STB posters. The old saying comes to mind, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

      1. It’s really quite simple, both of you.

        The biggest cost to a car-obsessed society is the space required by all those vehicles. At peak hours, that space is in the moving lanes — car2go fails just as hard as private cars and shared-lane public transit when traffic is worst.

        But the rest of the time, the problem is the space required to stash cars for long periods of time when stationary. That’s the fatal flaw in John’s park-and-ride comparison, and the fatal flaw in your expectation of dedicated car ownership.

        Car sharing solves this problem because, in places with enough aggregate demand and multi-directional need, the cars will not sit for long.

        As of a couple of months ago, car2go boasted 50 users for every car they had on the road. I’m sure that number is much higher by now. Instead of your or John’s private car… just… sitting… there… wasting… space…, the car becomes a shared amenity.

        It’s a 50x more efficient use of a space-intensive resource.

        Of course, at its best, public transit can be even more efficient than that. Which is why Metro needs to break its inertial habits in order to not be by far the worst option for getting places.

  8. I really wish Car2Go would be more proactive about getting their cars out of bus lanes. I come across them frequently. Given the nature of Car2Go’s service, where you park it and forget about – and the city’s inability to tow every single car illegally parked, it is entirely probable that a errantly parked Car2Go will block a bus lane for an entire commute.

    I tweet/email support whenever I can, but frequently I’m driving a bus and can’t get to it for an hour or more – by then it’s too late.

    1. the city’s inability to tow every single car illegally parked

      This drives me crazy.

      New York and Boston manage to tow, pretty much, every single car parked in a tow-away zone. Seattle could too if the City Council saw blocked bus lanes and curb lanes as enough of a problem to devote the necessary resources. I wish it would happen.

  9. Isn’t it the case that the car2go user is responsible if they leave the car in an illegal spot? Does the company pass on the cost of any citation to the user? It seems like they should have some surcharge if they need to send an employee out to move a car from an illegal spot or get it out of impund.

    1. You bet they pass the picket / towing fee onto whoever parked the car there. That an a hefty service fee too.

      My question is what to do when the car2go you reserve / walk up to has a ticket on it? Do you go about your business and call it in? If you didn’t report it out of politeness, would car2go get notified by the city some other way or would they only get notified after several late fees have been tacked on?

      1. I would guess that when Car2Go eventually gets the bill of the ticket, the ticket would have a timestamp on it, so they would know exactly who is responsible. If I am correct, it would be safe to just drive off and throw away the ticket.

        But you should probably ask Car2Go to confirm this, as I am not actually in the know about these things.

  10. What frustrates me about Car2Go is it seems whenever I need one there is not one close by. Always a ton of them in the South Lake Union area I would guess Amazon workers using them lead to that. But I work by Seattle Center and live on Capitol Hill so that walk to get a car makes it just as easy to take a bus.

    I really don’t get what all the bitching about the Car2Go’s taking up parking is all about. They are small so often they take spots that would go unused because they are too small for other drivers to bother with and with the turn over rarely do you see a Car2Go taking up a spot for long.

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