I used my Car2Go phone app to locate an available car nearby. I reserved the car on my phone. Then I walked to the car, which was approximately 3 blocks away from my downtown office, swiped my card on the card sensor, which unlocked the doors and let me in. Then I followed the instructions on the dashboard screen, which asked me if the car had any damage. This prompt reminded me to do a quick walk around (no damage). After confirming to the dashboard computer that there was no damage, I started the exceedingly quiet electric engine. I pulled out of the parking space (always a bit weird because I don’t immediately trust an engine I can’t hear) and drove to my meeting. Upon returning from my meeting, I parked the car in a metered space (Car2Go vehicles don’t have to pay meters in San Diego).
The total trip, which involved keeping the car for about two hours, cost me about $30. Car2Go can also be rented by the minute ($0.41). So it would have been much cheaper if I had been willing to give up the car when I reached my destination and take a chance I’d find another one nearby when I needed to go home. However, finding a car in walking distance is much more likely in downtown or nearby dense neighborhoods then it is in places like Mission Valley (where my meeting was located). Nevertheless, when compared to the cost of parking, gas, and wear & tear on my own car – if I used it daily instead of the trolley combined with the occasional Car2Go trip, it’s a pretty reasonable comparison. If I substitute transit/Car2Go for car ownership, the economics compare even more favorably. Car share memberships are inexpensive: Car2Go has a one time $35 registration fee and its competitor Zipcar has 3 plans – the entry level plan is a $25 application fee plus $60/yr. but lower hourly rates than Car2Go.
In addition to the cost and convenience considerations, all things being more or less equal, I try to use car share because I am doing something positive for the environment. The Car2Go vehicles are electric (Zipcars are gas powered) and they allow me to use public transit even when I have a meeting at a remote location. This augmented mobility facilitates my greater use of transit resulting in (whallah!) a smaller carbon footprint attributable to me.
How Car Share Integrates:
It’s sometimes said that cities like San Diego have a “last mile” problem when it comes to increasing public transit ridership. In other words, transit can’t get most people to within reasonable walking distance of their destination without transfers resulting in too much time. Companies like Car2Go and Zipcar offer hopeful solutions in sprawling cities like San Diego. Shortcomings mostly derive from the fact that these products/services are still relatively in their infancy. For example, I’d like Car2Go to extend all the way out to La Mesa where I live for those nights when I stay too late at the office and don’t want to take the trolley home. And I’d like there to be Car2Go vehicles available at LA area train stations (at present, Car2Go LA is limited to South Bay cities). I suppose I could keep dual memberships, one in Car2Go and one in Zipcar, the latter of which has greater LA coverage. Also, while car share, (where it exists) does pretty well at solving the “last mile” problem in cities with limited mass transit options, it isn’t typically suited for the first mile, i.e., if you live a mile or two from a major transit line. But the first mile may be less of an obstacle to increased transit use than the last mile because, for example, many transit riders drive their cars to the transit station, or get family to drop them off. The more remote part of the trip, the last mile, has typically been the greater obstacle . . . until car share.
Car Share Services Comparison:
One of the big advantages of Car2Go over Zipcar is that you can make a one way trip in Car2Go. In other words, you only have to pay for driving time if you are willing to give up the car at the other end (and assuming you stay in the Car2Go pickup region). Zipcar requires you to return the vehicle to the same spot where you picked it up. On the other hand, Car2Go’s vehicle fleet is limited to two-seaters. It would be nice to have a few four seaters in case I want to take the wife and kids somewhere. This is where Zipcar has the advantage, with four seaters and even some seven seaters. Click here for an excellent detailed comparison (as of a year ago) Car2Go vs. Zipcar.
Car Share’s Future:
Like many great things, car share may need a little help at the beginning to grow to the level where people become familiar with it and it reaches more areas. In fact, it probably needs to be around long enough so that people start to consider substituting car ownership with car share / transit as an option when deciding whether to replace their current cars. I have no doubt that car share services can be profitable businesses, environmentally superior, and more economical options for drivers if car share sevices can stick around and expand long enough to get into the mainstream consciousness. Therein lies the crux of the matter – getting to critical mass. However, with big oil and its congressional proxies, its unlikely to receive much national help. Hopefully, the private market and perhaps a little municipal and state support, will sustain it.