The idea that carsharing membership would reduce vehicle ownership is intuitive. However, the overall impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is less obvious. While an explicit per-mile charge discourages marginal driving, carsharing can also avoid an inconvenient transit trip for travelers who would not have purchased a car, or would have been deterred by the expense of parking.
A new study by UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) is based on Car2Go vehicle data and a customer survey. It examines these tradeoffs in five cities, in increasing order of density: San Diego, Calgary, Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver. Seattle’s results are broadly in line with the other four. The core finding is that most Car2Go users keep their cars, and Car2Go use simply increases their driving. However, a minority sells a car (or neglects to purchase one) due to their membership, and their effect is large enough to make Car2Go’s impact a net reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Greenhouse gas emissions.
A study that determines why people are selling cars inevitably introduces the imprecision of survey data, but the finding holds up against very conservative assumptions about how much those unbought cars would have traveled. Car2Go provided trip data, and survey access to its customers. The study’s funding came from several different governments and Car2Go itself.
The study estimates that each Car2Go in the Seattle fleet leads to the sale of 3 private cars, suppression of 7 would-be car purchases, and a net reduction of between 19,000 and 59,000 miles of driving annually. (The high uncertainty is due to the difficulty of figuring the amount that a car not purchased would be driven). That comes out to between 6 and 14 metric tons of greenhouse gases per vehicle. Cumulatively, that’s between 12m and 34m miles of driving eliminated from Seattle in one year.
About 3% of Seattle’s 54,000 members sold their car, and a further 9% abandoned plans to purchase another.
Most users reported no effect on their use of rail, buses, walking, and bikes. Only 3% of Seattle users said Car2Go made them bike more, and 6% less. Unlike the other four cities, urban rail use was more likely (6%-3%). But people that reported a change overwhelmingly said they walked more (20%-9%) and took the bus less (8%-28%).
Moreover, users were inclined to drive more (28%-15%), but take taxis (2%-42%) and Uber/Lyft (7%-27%) far less.
Although this study is specifically about Car2Go, its implications for Uber and Lyft are clear. As different as their business models are, they present a similar value proposition to customers: low-cost “transportation as a service.” Although Car2Go is somewhat different by trading a lower price for lower availability, in the long run automated cars should force the business models to converge. But for the impact to be unambiguously positive in terms of congestion and pollution, it has to bring the private car ownership rate down. How much will it, beyond the Car2Go early adopters?
62 Replies to “Study: Car2Go Reduces Vehicle Ownership, Driving”
Semi-related, has anyone heard discussion of letting car-share vehicles use HOV lanes? In a sense, they are “taking an additional car off the road”, so maybe drivers should get rewarded with a faster trip.
Isn’t the car they’re driving actually on the road?
As long as you’re only driving to or from Mercer Island.
I can support special parking for car-share vehicles (esp Smart Cars b/c of their size), if you are looking for a way to reward car-sharing.
But HOV lanes are for high occupancy vehicles. If you want a car-sharer to use HOV, they should make sure they have multiple people with them … same for Uber/Taxis
Imagine every car2go in the city being in use during rush hour because everyone figured out they can ride in HOV lanes as long as they have the right car without having to carpool.
Shortly after this starts, everyone realizes it’s a terrible idea as the HOV lanes become a GP lane for car2go.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Driving on Congested Roads Reduces Congestion.
It would be pretty silly to “reward” people for membership in a group that, on aggregate, drives less when they’re driving. But then even this study shows that only the subset of car-share users that abandon their cars actually drive less, so the idea of “rewarding” car-share users is even crazier than that.
If, if you believe that it’s reasonable to “reward” some group for driving less when they are indeed driving, and you aren’t actually going to gate membership in that group by some measurement of actually driving less, you could probably find lower rates of driving in many groups:
– People that have monthly ORCA passes
– People that own bikes with fenders
– People that don’t own cars
– Poor people, generally
But with many HOV lanes already congested, once you add all these people to the lanes we have they’ll hardly provide any advantage for the car-sharers.
As much as I live car sharing, I feel that allowing car-share vehicles to use HOV lanes is a bad idea. A single-occupancy vehicle is still a single-occupancy vehicle, and whether the vehicle is shared or privately owned, the road space consumed is the same. If too many people did that, the HOV lanes would be become more congested, and there would be repercussions for transit and legitimate carpools.
Allowing car-sharing vehicles special parking arrangements makes sense because the spaces they consume turn over much faster than private cars (because as soon as you park, anyone else can drive the car away), but for road space on the freeway, that argument does not apply.
I would think Uber and Lyft would have different impact numbers, as each trip is potentially 2 or more trips (driver drives to you, then drives you to destination, then probably drives somewhere else to wait for next call). This is a nice feature of car share – it’s only being driven while taking someone from origin to destination.
I was hoping for more of a positive impact for even those that don’t get rid of a car. I’ll need a car today after work, so I drove in. But if I’m not sure I’ll need a car I’ll walk in, and if I do need a car I’ll Car2Go/ReachNow. This means at least one car trip is replaced, and maybe two if it turns out I don’t need a car after all. I also use it along with buses – if I need to be somewhere on time and I’m time limited, I’ll take a C2G knowing I’ll be able to bus back.
There are trips where taxis aren’t very convenient as well. I’m thinking of Christmas shopping. I’ve done this on transit plenty of times and the problem is that you have to carry your purchases from store to store as you make them and then all the way home. Taxis don’t help much since you still have to hold onto your purchases as they take you from place to place. But, with your own car you leave the purchases in the trunk as you make additional stops. A ZipCar has the advantage of being your personal car for the hours you rent it.
Of course there’s always Amazon.
There are those of us who split the baby— some might want to have an adult beveridge or three may car2go/reachnow/zipcar one way to the nightlife neighborhood destination of our choice (saving a few bucks off Uber/Lyft), but uber/lyft our way home (to avoid the potential risk of impaired driving/DUI, etc).
Good point, there are some use cases that move people to transit if there’s a Car2Go/Uber available for the return trip.
Indeed true – when the spouse and I go into downtown for a night out, it’s almost always bus-in, Uber-out. We don’t want to spoil the good mood by spending 10-20 minutes at a 3rd Ave downtown bus stop.
It’s a good backup/safety net for non-car commuters. I’ve never needed an “emergency” mode that’s faster than my fairly slow bus/Link/bike-share commute, but when I decided to sell my car last year part of the decision was if I started to have the occasional trips that really needed a car, I’d sign up for one of these services.
On a side note I noticed last week the leading contender for Seattle’s new bike share vendor has a partnership with Renault’s car-share system (including the tiny Twizy – basically a glorified golf-cart or quad-cycle). Integrated e-bike/car share (and transit) would take a lot of the hassle out of cobbling together multi-modal transportation.
+1. The vast majority of Car2Go/ReachNow/Lyft/Uber trips I have ever taken have ended up being one-way. How I traveled the other direction varies. For instance, if I’m buying something too heavy to take on a bus, I might walk there empty and drive back. Or, I might ride the bus during the early evening while it’s still running and car-share or Uber back, when it’s not. Or, in some cases, I might use car-sharing to get to a social event and, once I’m there, find somebody to carpool back with. It all depends. Very rarely does a car-share trip one direction end up being combined with a car-share trip in the opposite direction.
I think a big factor with car ownership is it is a great expense, but once you’ve engaged in that expense there is an incentive to get the most out of it. The cost of the car itself becomes a sunk cost which skews the cost/benefit analysis of transit versus using the car. If you think you must own a car because of one reason then ownership of the car becomes the justification for using it for many other reasons.
Services like Car2Go and ZipCar allows people to reframe some of this logic. They pull the rental car down from something imagined only for multi-day road trips to something that can be used for day trips, shopping, or just convenience. That allows them to think about their car ownership in an annualized way not as a sunk cost, but as an ongoing cost.
Comparing simply gas and parking against the cost of transit, for many trips the car is going to win. However, comparing the annualized car payment, maintenance, and gas against the cost of a transit pass will generally leave plenty of money for the occasional car rental and significant savings.
I agree. Plus the cost of driving (once you buy a car) is much harder to measure. Drive a car less and you save money on maintenance. If you don’t commute by car you might get a discount on your insurance. But other than the insurance, it is very hard to measure. How much less maintenance do you need? What is it actually costing you, per mile, to drive (as opposed to leaving the car in the garage)? Other than gas, it really varies quite a bit depending on where you drive, how you drive and what you drive.
In general the people I’ve known who have decided (after much hesitation) to own a car do so mostly because of convenience, not cost. They want to able to go to the mountains or visit their dad in Marysville without the hassle of a rental car. Even for short term trips, they find Car2Go and ZipCar too much of a hassle. Not having used those, I can’t comment, but I think as they become more ubiquitous, many of those disadvantages go away.
I wish the short term rental cars had service in suburban park and rides. To use the Marysville example, you can easily take a bus to Everett (and it is faster than driving at rush hour), then another bus to Marysville. But then what? Chances are, your destination is still five miles away, and probably not served by transit. I think you could get plenty of people to use these car rentals if they served areas like that.
Car2Go cut back its coverage area in Portland because the cars were not getting used very often east of about 60th. There are a couple of remaining islands on the east side of Portland.
If this area:
isn’t dense enough to support Car2Go, It is hard for me to imagine this being dense enough:
The trick for suburban areas is to move away from a home-area/street-parking based system in favor of a system with dedicated spaces in various parking lots scattered throughout the city. In suburban areas, street parking usually has nothing around it except for single-family homes, which greatly reduces the usefulness of the service. Commercial areas usually have lots of parking, but zero street parking, so making deals with shopping center owners is the only way to produce a usable service. Fortunately, with so many suburban shopping centers having over-sized, under-used parking lots, cutting a deal with get 3 or 4 spaces out of a 150-car lot designated as “Car2Go” should not be all that expensive.
On the residential side, you would go not after single-family homes, but apartment complexes. Getting by-in from the landlords should be even easier than getting by-in from shopping center owners, for a simple reason – having car-sharing on-site is an amenity for residents that will make the complex a more attractive place to live than the competition, all other things being equal. One could even imagine a model where landlords pay Car2Go to be included in the home area, rather than the other way around.
Even though car-sharing will probably never work (short of driverless Uber) in place like Marysville, I can easily see CarGo working in places such downtown Bellevue and the apartments and shopping centers near Microsoft. There ought to be plenty of people to support such a system, especially during the summer, when a bunch of interns, many of which do not have cars, flood the area.
Yeah, what asdf2 said: it is a slightly different model. In general car sharing isn’t that different than traditional car rentals. It is just an evolution, really:
1) Rent a car for the day at a handful of car lots. Go through a laborious paperwork process.
2) Have the agent pick you up.
3) Rent for less than a full day.
4) Register with a company so you can avoid the paperwork.
5) Pick up your car at dozens of designated lots spread out around the city.
6) Drop off your car anywhere. Pick up your car anywhere a car happens to be.
I’m suggesting steps one through five, that’s all. Marysville might still be a bit too remote (as you suggest) which would leave Everett. That could actually work out really well, from what I can tell. Everett Transit Center (like just about all of Everett) is very low density. But it is well served by buses that run in HOV lanes, as well as Sounder. Meanwhile, if I’m not mistaken, the HOV lanes end after Everett, so someone taking a bus to Maryville wouldn’t gain an advantage. I would imagine there would be a market for this. Take a bus (or train) to Everett, then grab a car without a hassle. You would save a considerable amount of time over driving alone (and save even more time when Link gets to Lynnwood). The same is true for Tacoma and Olympia.
Again, these are not high density areas. That is really my point. High density areas should be served with decent bus service or (lacking that) have support for step six (drop off your car anywhere). These are areas where people drive because it is really impractical to do anything else. But these are areas where congestion is a major problem because of a shared corridor — a corridor that happens to have good transit along it. In short, it solves the last mile problem in one of the few ways it can be solved.
So I leave my Car2Go in a designated part of a suburban shopping center or P&R. When I come back someone else has driven off in it — that’s fine, this is what makes car-share potentially more efficient with regard to parking space. But it’s not just that — they’ve driven off with the last one!
In a denser place I fire up the app and look for one within walking distance. That doesn’t really work here, I’m at the only designated lot within walking range. In a denser place if there’s not a car nearby I might catch a bus. Here there’s not a reasonable way to get where I’m going on bus. In a denser place I might call a cab. Here it will take longer to arrive (they aren’t so thick on the ground) and cost more (the trip is longer). In a denser place I’d say, “Oh, well, at least I saved money on parking.” Here parking is free (i.e. bundled into the price of everything else).
Car sharing feeds on local density and walkability.
I’d like to see the bike share model work for car share (i.e., cars around stations in suburban areas, spaced out perhaps every mile or two rather than every other block as in a dense area) but the logistics are difficult. You can’t “rebalance” cars as easily as you can bikes. Still, the island model is promising, provided that the islands are connected around busy transit hubs or something, but then that turns into traditional carshare where you return the car where you got it.
C2G is absolutely the reason that caused me to sell my seldom used vehicle in order to rarely use a Car2Go. I’m not their best customer by a long shot, but I am really glad they (and Reach Now) are there when and if I need them.
I took the survey at point. One of the problems with it is that it simply asks whether you take mode X more often/less often/the same as before. How much more, or how much less, it doesn’t ask.
For me, when asked about transit use, I felt I had to put “less”, since Car2Go has indeed replaced a small number of bus trips, particularly those where the car takes 10-15 minutes, the bus would have taken an hour, and I didn’t have an hour. However, when you dig deeper, it turns out that the number of times this actually happens is tiny – maybe once or twice a month, compared with 1-2 transit trips every single day.
From a transit perspective, I think it would be interesting to collect data on Car2Go trips that people are taking, as it represents a proxy for latent demand that transit service is failing to meet. In my case, at least half of my Car2Go trips end up being between Fremont and the U-district on a Sunday, when the 31 isn’t running and the 32 is only once every half hour. Usually, it ends up happening when I just missed a 32 and don’t have time to wait. If the Fremont->U-district corridor had 15-minute service 7 days a week (or even if a Pronto station existed at Fremont/34th), a good chunk of these Car2Go trips would have been eliminated.
Similarly, I have noticed a large decrease in the number of Car2Go (and Lyft and Uber) trips I’ve taken to/from downtown after U-link opened, so again, the quality of the transit service makes a huge difference.
“From a transit perspective, I think it would be interesting to collect data on Car2Go trips that people are taking, as it represents a proxy for latent demand that transit service is failing to meet”
I agree – and perhaps the SDOT and Metro should negotiate the receipt of this data into the contracts they enter into with these companies. My guess is that the most common routes in which a person chooses carshare are within the frequent bus network, but too slow. Could call for more express or limited service, and (of course) bus lanes. If you’re destination is a place you can park, there is absolutely no incentive presently to use the bus. BC everyone is screwed in congestion, and the bus makes stops, so might as well just drive.
BTW SDOT champions Uber, Lyft (even subsidizing Lift rides from bumbershoot) but doesn’t care about transit and getting buses out of congestion?
I totally agree – it gets rid of a few bus trips when I most hate the bus – at midnight, when a 12 minute drive takes me an hour by bus – but very few. But it increases the trips that I walk for, and the ones I take transit for one leg of when another leg would be really unpleasant on transit.
YES! I fit this profile also. I am factually using more car miles than before to replace some inconvenient transit trips. On the other hand, we are already a one-car household; so this helps to mitigate the incentives to purchase a second one.
I think ride-shares are also excellent “last mile” solutions or for those one-way uses that actually incentivize transit use. Drive from a neighborhood to a higher frequency bus line. Women who are comfortable taking a bus Downtown but not standing around a stop at night to return home. Etc.
We’ve thought about selling our one 13 year old car (2 person HH) bc we’ve become sold on ReachNow. Annual savings would be about $1100 for car insurance, $900 for fuel, and maybe $500/year in depreciation. We’ll say $1000/year in repair and maintenance If we wanted to we could rent out our deeded parking space for maybe $1000/year. So gross savings + income is $4500.
Fletcher is right. The car is a sunk cost. It’s safe and reliable and right there. It’s comfortable and I’m used to it. But $4500 is real money to our family so it’s something I’ll be considering more.
I think it’s very likely that the little Smart cars Car2Go uses also get considerably better mileage than the cars their users would otherwise be driving. (Using electric vehicles for the car share would be even better, if you could solve the charging problem…)
It is a way to get Americans into European-sized cars…
How much longer before Car2Go and/or ReachNow can extend beyond Seattle, to cities like Bellevue or Lynnwood? It would be nice to have car-sharing options to get to these places, particularly during the periods when the buses are down to once an hour, if they exist at all.
Zipcar kind of serves Bellevue with it’s one-way services, but with just one parking spot for the whole city, that doesn’t really count.
Car2Go can now go between Arlington, VA and DC, which is somewhat similar.
“particularly during the periods when the buses are down to once an hour, if they exist at all” I have a feeling that’s not the best market for a car sharing service. They’re probably afraid the Car2Go would sit around all day unused. The answer, like for many problems, is to build more densely.
I don’t think it’s quite that cut and dry. I think car2go replaces trips that are more likely to have been done by cars because transit wasn’t that convenient. Sometimes it may be you need the storage but it’s not like a smart car has that much (reach is better in this regard). So if you build so dense that transit is very frequent, the car2go won’t be as useful for that reason.
I say this because I’ve only used car2go to avoid a bus ride that’s up to an hour on a route that I can drive in 12 minutes. Storage was irrelevant and I would have taken the bus if it had the frequency and stopped closer to where I was going.
I disagree. I think that’s one of their strengths as a business model – they have a better balance between peak and off peak use than most forms of transportation. Buses and personal vehicles are used a lot at peak and drive empty/take up parking space off peak, for the most part. Car2Go, by charging per minute, discourages peak use when traffic makes the trip expensive and buses are at their most frequent, and encourages off-peak use, when buses suck and a ride is cheap because there isn’t traffic. It’s a sort of built-in congestion pricing.
The result is that vehicles get a lot more use, and so costs for parking, insurance, depreciation as cars get older and out-of-date (though obviously not mileage-induced depreciation) get split between a lot more trips. Hence the company can offer you a reasonable price and make a profit.
(note – for this reason they pair well with ridership-oriented transit services. They can’t do the heavy lifting of rush hour, at least not without carpooling integrated into the service, but transit is good at that. When and where you don’t need all that capacity (coverage routes and times), car2go gives people a much better service than a bus, without requiring personal car ownership or the other legs of your journey to be driven in your personal car.)
I think the biggest challenge with expanding outside of Seattle is with street grids. Density matters too, but it does alright in Seattle’s single family neighborhoods despite their relatively low density, because the street grid means there’s a lot more street within walking distance. But it’s like transit – the last mile has to be walked, and where low density is combined with cul-de-sacs, there just aren’t that many customers within walking distance. I think that changes when autonomous vehicles come around, because a vehicle within 5-10 minutes drive is useful rather than just within 5-10 minutes drive.
But I’d bet it expands to Shoreline, where the street grid is pretty decent, before it gets to Bellevue, even though Bellevue is denser.
Oh, so now we are interested in reducing driving. Because when it’s been pointed out in the past that Link won’t reduce driving or congestion, there are those who said “doesn’t matter.” They said all that matters is that there is an alternative to driving.
BTW, what’s with all the slick and professional Car2Go pics on the link page? This was an independent, scientific study?
At risk of feeding the troll, no. That’s not what people have been saying about Link, at least, it’s not at all the consensus opinion. The argument is that Link won’t reduce congestion, because that it will allow the city to grow despite that congestion, because people will be taking Link rather than being stuck in traffic. Total miles travelled will remain about the same, as the population of the city grows, which means fewer miles driven per capita. Which is the measure that matters – the people exist, whether they’re in Seattle, the suburbs, or some other state. Link allows us to add them to our city without increasing our city’s emissions, because there are ways to get around other than driving.
EHS, read the STB bylaws. Trolling is punishable by a minimum sentence of a year of being banned after the first warning, up to lifetime banishment without parole for repeated violations.
That’s how you know I’m not a troll. If I was, you wouldn’t be seeing anything I write.
EHS, and Sam. Hate to admit this, (yeah right), but best thing about LINK is getting to look out the window at several hundred thousand stationary red lights making the snow all rosy. So therefore, fact that LINK doesn’t prevent congestion is the best thing about it.
YouTube probably has some great footage of our light shows. Which probably out-poll Gothenburg footage of streetcar drunks, or a streetcar on fire. Not clear if it was same incident.
I’m curious how much Cars2Go revenue comes from customers circling the block looking for a place to park the thing and get off the clock. And how much mileage is involved in those maneuvers.
It’s Seattle’s policy to price street parking such that there’s usually a space or two open at every block. If you’re finding that not to be the case it’s probably time that Seattle increases parking fees.
RD and Matt, idea that could help. Widen the doors on that fourth LINK car I want to adapt for bikes and luggage, and also check by tape measure if a Car-2-Go will fit in an elevator or if this only works from Stadium south. No reason the Chunnel should have a monopoly on this.
You’re right that parking rates are to keep a spot or so open on every block, but that’s only during parking enforcement hours. I took car2go on Monday (Labor Day) to catch amtrak, and…after circling as far as I-5…had to park back by my house and take an Uber in or else I was going to miss my train. It was infuriating, and the most extreme example in my (hundred plus?) car2go trips, but circling for parking happens all. the. time., usually in the evenings or Sundays in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, U-District, or other inner ‘hoods.
Anecdotally: We’ve been regular users since day one and have spent very little time circling the block. Seattle’s parking problems seem overblown in the first place, and in a little C2G you can fit into a lot of spots others can’t.
I’m of the opinion that once time spent circling for parking brings the cost of a Car2Go up to the cost of Lyft or Uber, you may as well just take Lyft or Uber and save yourself the hassle.
For the most part, downtown Car2Go parking isn’t too bad, but if there’s any kind of event going on, it can be really bad. Sundays are also bad, as free parking usually means no available parking.
That said, even if one isn’t willing to actually take a Car2Go to downtown, taking a Car2Go from downtown, which somebody else has taken the trouble to park for you, is usually much easier.
Huh. We’ve taken Car2Go downtown when running late for Sounders games countless times, including Sundays, and always find a spot somewhere south of Columbia no problem. Maybe we’re just lucky. Maybe, coming from a much bigger city, we’re happier to park further away from our destination than most Seattleites. Personally, I’ve never understood all the griping about parking here. It’s a dream.
Think of the broader long-term implications for this. Every car owned in the city takes up somewhere around 128 square feet (assuming a compact 8×16 parking space). Every car owner in the city has dedicated, somewhere, 128 square feet of space for a parking stall, garage space, or use of readily available (becoming less so each day) on street parking. Just imagine if just half of Seattle’s households ditched one car each, what effect that could have. That’s a lot of space that we could free up in the city for better uses. Even older less dense neighborhoods and apartment buildings would reap the benefits. The garage in a single family house becomes a rec room or bicycle storage. The gravel driveway becomes garden. Even garage parking in an apartment complex can be converted to enclosed storage units for occupants to store outdoor equipment. Those scarce on-street parking stalls would be available to visitors. The possibilities are endless. This is a good thing for Seattle. I hope it continues to expand, in concert with improvements to transit and ZipCar. They all have a purpose. But we don’t all need to have a dedicated, owned vehicle.
Agreed – vehicle miles driven is important for climate, but cars per capita, and thus parking needed, is equally important. Reducing parking lets us build a better urban fabric, which in turn improves walkability, transit use, VMT, heating and cooling costs (b/c more people live in apartments if the urban environment is nicer), and thus carbon emissions.
I wonder how many people park their car on the street. I don’t. Very few of my neighbors do. They either park their car in a garage, or outside it (on the driveway). A quick check of the map shows that most of the city is not really urban — there are plenty of driveways, and people tend to park their car on their own property at night (for security reasons if nothing else). My guess is this is where car ownership is highest, because this is where using a car makes the most sense. Meanwhile, people in the more urban areas (Belltown, UW, etc.) either don’t own cars or use them for longer distance outings (as they do in New York). Car sharing doesn’t make much sense for them. If they are using car sharing, it suggests that our public transit system is failing — if it doesn’t serve the urban areas, then who does it serve? I don’t think that is the case; I think most of the people driving are doing so in the less urban parts of the city.
Which means that if people switch, it would be hard to notice. Maybe you see fewer cars parked in the driveway. In most of the city you would see less variety in terms of parked cars. But like New York (where you often see almost nothing but cabs) it doesn’t mean there is a shortage of cars. It just means the cars all look quite similar.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the argument when it comes to zoning. I think it is absurd that we still require parking for new construction (anywhere in the city). Car sharing is a very strong counter argument. If a semi-urban neighborhood (e. g. Wallingford) is filled with car sharing cars, then it is pretty hard to argue that you need to build parking for the new apartment — folks there won’t use the spots.
I was on a 62 last week going past the narrow streets around Greenlake and looked to see how many cars were parked on the street and how many spaces were open. There were a lot of cars so somebody is parking there. There were maybe a few spaces open but not many. And on Capitol Hill when I have guests come and they inevitably have a car, they sometimes circle the block several times and give up because they can’t find parking. Sometimes I’m with them and I want them to come up to my apartment for a bit or meet at a nearby restaurant but we have to cancel the plans because they can’t park anywhere. So that “one space per block” policy does not seem to be everywhere.
“people in the more urban areas (Belltown, UW, etc.) either don’t own cars or use them for longer distance outings (as they do in New York). Car sharing doesn’t make much sense for them.”
But that’s what car sharing is for, so you don’t have to own a car. We use Zipcar occasionally to go to Costco, take stuff to Goodwill or the dump, go outside the frequent-transit area, or take a disabled relative to the tulip festival or Snoqualmie Falls. I don’t use taxis or Uber because I have a very high threshold to take one: only if I’m in an unknown city with little transit and I don’t know how far something is, or if I’m with somebody who insists on taking a taxi. But I suppose others use it in the inner city. And a lot of people come to the inner city from outside and they use Uber. I have a friend who takes Uber from Kirkland to Seattle so he can drink without worrying about driving.
Maybe I’m backwards from most, but nowadays, I tend to use Lyft and Uber the most outside of the inner city because bus service isn’t as good and Car2Go isn’t an option (because it’s outside of the home area). Occasionally, I’ll even take a $30 ride between Seattle and a suburban destination because, at the end of day, it is still way cheaper than the $90 or so it would cost to rent a Zipcar and pay for it while it sits parked for 8 hours.
In fact, while the presence of Lyft/Uber/Car2Go have had a marginal impact in my use of transit (e.g. paying for a ride home after just missing an hourly bus), it’s had a bit impact in my use of Zipcar. Enough that it’s been over a year since I last drove a Zipcar, and I’m currently debating whether continuing to pay the annual membership fee. The one-way business definitely helps, but the available pick-up drop-off points are too heavily concentrated in the city center, where transit is abundant and Zipcar is not needed. Even if one end of the trip is near the city center, a one-way car-sharing service is not a useful service unless it serves both ends of the trip. The airport pick-up drop-off point is also not easy to use because waiting for the WallyPark shuttle eats up too much time. If I’m in a situation where I have too much luggage for a bus connection, simply riding Link as far as possible, followed by Lyft, Uber, or Car2Go the rest of the way, is usually a much better deal.
@Mike — I should have been more clear. I meant park their car on the street every night. Of course people park their car in the places you mentioned. They are visiting friends, going for a walk, shopping or doing any number of things that people buy a car for. A switch to car sharing doesn’t change this. You would fill up the spots with car share vehicles — big deal.
Meanwhile, for a huge chunk of the city, there are plenty of parking spots. A typical residential street in a typical neighborhood (think Genesee in West Seattle, not Capitol Hill) sits largely empty all day. My point is that parking really isn’t a problem in most of the city, and a switch to car sharing won’t do a thing where it is. Again, it is like a switch to using cabs reducing congestion. Anyone who has seen wall to wall taxis in New York knows that it doesn’t make much difference. Cars don’t scale.
As for car sharing, again, I think improvements in transit have a bigger effect. Taxi cabs and rental cars have improved dramatically over the last few years. It is easier and cheaper than ever to live without a car. But I don’t think any city has caught up to what New York was 20 years ago, because none of them have the same quality of transit. In other words, these improvements are great, but the thing that really gets people to get rid of their cars is the feeling that they can get just about anywhere with transit and do so easily and quickly. Saving a few bucks on those rare trips where they drive or ride in a car is great, but it is only a few trips (and if it isn’t, my guess is they own a car).
Even though it doesn’t apply to me (my car is primarily for hiking/skiing/camping purposes, and nobody wants to share a car that’s had my boots in it), I think it will reduce car ownership for more than just early adopter types.
One reason is that the more cars there are out there, the shorter the walk to get to a car. As the convenience increases, the number of people whose needs it serves should increase proportionally. (simultaneously, prices should come down, too, because cars are less likely to get lost in some neighborhood where there’s only one or two occasional users; utilization rate goes up, costs come down)
The other reason is that it gets rid of the capital requirements of car ownership, which means there should be a steady supply of young people and cash-strapped people who don’t buy a car because they can car2go instead.
As a car owner (but regular cyclist/walker/public transit user), I agree with the survey – it doesn’t change how much I drive as much as it increases walking and quality of life. It’s really nice to be able to get around without a car and know that I can get home with a car at the end of the day if other options suck.
I’m not the “early adopter type” for anything, but I am always sitting on the sidelines, watching the prototypes and research. I’m definitely not alone. My house is terribly oriented for solar (tree canopy, no south facing roof, very segmented and broken up roof lines), and a Tesla hasn’t been in my budget. My paycheck just isn’t big enough to support those types of purchases. BUT… a Nissan Leaf is in the budget, and once we drive the current economy-model clunker into the ground, we’ll be on-board for an electric vehicle. And upon purchasing a new home (it will happen eventually), solar viability will be a serious consideration. Same would go for city dwellers who aren’t early adopters. A lot of them are sitting back and watching, looking at the family budget, work commutes, and transit routes to see if – when that ’96 Mazda finally dies – it makes sense to not replace it and get a subscription car (Zipcar or Car2Go) instead.
Totally, I’m in the same boat. I have no desire to be on the bleeding edge, but I’m very interested in where things are going, and am willing to push into new stuff when it fits my values and I’m confident it’s where we’re going. My current car is absolutely my last gas powered car, and I hope I can figure out some kind of cheap, weekend-only model eventually so I can go to the mountains most weekends but car share in the city.
You are not alone, EHS. There are a lot of people who own cars (especially in this town) for recreational purposes. It is unrealistic to assume we will catch up with the Europeans and see trains and buses to Snow Lake, let alone Mount Dickerman trailhead (even though these places are hardly remote). Add in the trips to see friends in small towns and suburbs spread out across the state, and you can see why people still own a lot of cars.
I have a hard time getting excited about car sharing, and even electric vehicles. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but if these become increasingly popular, it s a sign that we are basically failing when it comes to building a decent transit system. I find it ironic that car sharing doesn’t work in the areas that it seems best suited for — the suburbs. You can park you car in the U-District, but not Shoreline. That seems backwards from a societal standpoint, but since it is popular, it just shows we aren’t doing as good a job with transit as we should.
Likewise with electric cars. If you use your car for trips only outside the city, then an electric car just won’t work for you. I think a Leaf would have trouble getting from Seattle to Snoqualmie Pass, which is not at all a long trip (or a big altitude gain) when it comes to hiking. A trip to Sunrise (Mount Rainier) is probably out of the question. Of course you can try charging up along the way, but in many of those areas, gas stations are rare, let alone charging stations.
Of course, things change, and it wouldn’t shock me if both problems get solved eventually. Maybe charging stations become a lot more common (and faster). Maybe the range extends to handle the big uphills that are common. Or maybe the folks that use cars for that purpose are really a minority, and ownership goes down (or rental car companies offer better deals for weekend use). Maybe (as this article suggests) transit use increases as ownership decreases, even if it is largely a switch to renting. Eventually that should lead to better transit. One can hope.
Sometimes I wonder if part of the business justification for car-sharing fleets from the car company’s perspective, is to boost sales, since every short-term rental is effectively a test drive, and the lost car sales, that car-sharing replaces are mostly coming out of other companies’ brands. For instance, will the presence of ReachNow mean that millennials who don’t have a car today (but will get one eventually, when they get married and have children) will be more inclined to choose a BMW than they would otherwise? If so, car-sharing doesn’t even have to turn a profit to be worth the company’s while – even if it loses money, as long as it doesn’t lose too much money, the advertisement value for the brand may be worth it.
Oh, totally. Also, like sales to rental agencies, it’s a good way to sop up extra manufacturing capability if you overestimated a model’s popularity and built a factory that can build too many of them. BMW i3 sales are well below what they projected when the car was released, and they built not just an assembly line for the factory but also a factory to make the carbon fiber impregnated plastic the car is largely made out of. So rather than wasting the money the spent on the factory, or reducing the price and with it the BMW prestige, it’s a smart move to put them into circulation with ReachNow, especially because running costs are very low on EVs.
I like C2G and with improved biking infrastructure, better transit from ULink and because of all the distracted texting drivers in giant SUVs everywhere in Seattle now (is it just me noticing this?) I am so close to selling my polluting TDI VW. Still I haven’t figured out the hiking/backpacking/skiing solution yet, other to leech rides from friends, hummmm…
I would expect these effects to be even more exaggerated with Zipcar membership, a system that is more gives you more flexibility akin to car ownership. I see Car2Go as more of a service for trips that could otherwise be taken with transit, as it’s only within city limits and one-way. Zipcar gives you a much fuller range of options in terms of cargo, range, and timing, and thus has probably helped many more people ditch their cars or forgo buying one. I know that’s true for me.
I don’t think so. Car2Go’s can be taken out of town for all-day trips at comparable prices to Zipcar. But, without the hassles of reservations, plus you can return the car right in front of your house, even if you have to walk a ways to pick it up. The big limitation of Car2Go is the size of the cars and the lack of ability to carry three people. But, the ReachNow cars do carry three people, so that doesn’t require Zipcar anymore, either.
In general, I have found the Zipcar reservation system to be a big drag, especially if there’s just one car near you and, if it’s taken, it’s taken. I can also attest that having to constantly watch the clock to keep extending your reservation by another hour really sucks, as does getting stuck in a traffic jam on I-5 ten minutes before your reservation is about to end. The open-ended Car2Go system, where you just check out the car and go, without any advance reservation process, is much better.
I can see how Zipcar could be nice if you live somewhere like Belltown where there might be 4 or 5 cars available within a block of you, but once you get outside the densest core of the city, you might have one car within 1/2 mile of you, if that, which, more often not, will be taken by somebody else. Car2Go extends the car-sharing option to the rest of the city.
“I see Car2Go as more of a service for trips that could otherwise be taken with transit, as it’s only within city limits and one-way”. There are plenty of trips within the city limits that might involve 2-3 buses totally close an hour that Car2Go can accomplish in a 10-15 minute drive. Granted, these are not the most popular trips, but they happen plenty often enough to give the Car2Go vehicles plenty of use. By contrast, Zipcar’s new one-way service doesn’t really do much that transit doesn’t do, because the cars are only available for pick-up and drop-off in the densest parts of the city that have the best transit.
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