[Clarification: the post states that carsharing vehicles have “the right to park…in any legal parking spot at no charge”. While users do not pay for street parking at the point of use, the city does charge a flat annual fee of $1,730 per vehicle, amounts are adjusted annually based upon actual usage, and such fees are built into member pricing. – Zach]
Back in 2013, when Daimler launched its Car2Go carsharing service in Seattle, I lamented the fact that the Car2Go service area (the boundaries where cars can be parked and left for the next customer) stopped short of serving West and Southeast Seattle—two areas with diverse populations and, tellingly, more lower-income people than the Central and North Seattle neighborhoods Car2Go did serve first. At the time, I expressed some incredulity that Car2Go considered neighborhoods like Mount Baker and Columbia City “new and developing areas,” which struck (and strikes) me as code for “places that aren’t mostly white yet.”
Car2Go eventually expanded its service, and in 2015, the city adopted legislation that increased the number of “free-floating car share” permits that also required all new carsharing services to expand their service areas to include the entire city within two years. The implication was clear: If the city is going to give your members the right to park your cars in any legal parking spot
at no charge [see note above], you have to serve the entire city, even the parts that may be less white—and less lucrative.
BMW’s new ReachNow service launch shows the wisdom of that rule. ReachNow, which costs 49 cents a minute (to Car2Go’s $0.41), has an initial service area virtually identical to Car2Go’s, excluding all of West Seattle and Southeast Seattle and stopping just a couple of blocks south of I-90, at S Lander St. ReachNow has two years to expand its service area to include the whole city.