Car-sharing on the rise

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June 18, 2014 // UPDATED 7:08 pm - July 1, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Car2Go members Laura Gagliardi and Christopher Cramer.
Photo by Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

A growing number of people in Minneapolis are signing up for car-sharing services and forgoing the hassles and expenses associated with owning their own cars.

Car2Go — the first car-sharing company to be part of a city pilot program — has seen steady growth in membership since launching in Minneapolis the fall of 2013.

The company’s membership has climbed to 9,000 members, said Joshua Johnson, the location manager for Car2Go in Minneapolis.

The car-sharing program allows members to reserve Smart cars for short tips within the city. Cars can be parked for free in any on-street metered parking space.

Car2Go, which has a fleet of 350 cars in Minneapolis, averages about 3,150 rentals a week in Minneapolis, according to a recent update presented to the City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee. On average, drivers travel about 3.5 miles per trip.

The car-sharing company got its start in Ulm, Germany in 2008 and has since expanded to 16 cities in Europe and North America.

It will also be launching in St. Paul in early July with a fleet of 185 cars, Johnson said. St. Paul and Minneapolis members will be able to start and end trips in either city.

Two other car-sharing programs have since joined Minneapolis’ pilot program — HOURCAR and Zipcar. The car-sharing companies pay the city for use of metered on-street parking spaces.

As part of the city’s pilot program, HOURCAR is allowed to have six permitted vehicles at its designated reserved curbside parking spots in the city and Zipcar has 17 permitted cars.

Car2Go has an agreement with the city to pay $583,000 a year to allow its cars in metered parking spots, said city spokesman Casper Hill. Zipcar pays the city $28,000 a year and HOURCAR pays $3,000 a year.

St. Paul-based HOURCAR rolled out its car-sharing program in 2005 and signed on to the city’s pilot program mid-December 2013. It recently expanded its fleet of cars to 73 and has new locations in Northeast, along the Green Line, Lake Street and Eat Street.

The nonprofit car-sharing program has 2,600 members — 1,623 of them live in Minneapolis, said Christopher Bineham, HOURCAR’s program manager.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Zipcar celebrated its one-year anniversary in Minneapolis on June 18. The car-sharing network operates in cities throughout the United States, Europe and Canada.

Brian Harvey, the Twin Cities market manager for Zipcar, said he’s excited about the company’s new 1,400-square-foot office at 733 Marquette Ave. S. “We’re seeing a lot of walk-in traffic,” he said.

Zipcar has 27 vehicles in its Twin Cities fleet — 22 in Minneapolis, three in St. Paul and two at the airport. It also has a variety of cars in its fleet, including a Nissan Pickup, Toyota Prius and Mercedes-Benz.

Thoughts from members 

Christopher Cramer and Laura Gagliardi, a Mill District couple that works at the University of Minnesota, use HOURCAR and Car2Go vehicles for most of their transportation needs.

“Considering we’re paying no car insurance, no gas, no maintenance, I think the service for the cost is great,” Cramer said, a professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the U’s Department of Chemistry and College of Science and Engineering. “The ability to make use of a hub service like HOURCAR that’s a little cheaper time-wise, as well as a drive-and-drop service that’s super convenient for point-to-point travel is a great combination for us.”

The couple spends between $150 and $250 a month on the services, he said.

Evan Roberts, an assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota, is part of a single-car family living in the Prospect Park neighborhood. He’s been a Car2Go member since it launched in the city in October 2013.

He uses the cars about once every two weeks, on average, for short trips.

“It’s a great way for people to be a zero or one-car household, and complements using transit, biking or walking,” he said. “… I have never had a problem finding a car when I wanted one within a five-minute walk.”

Car2Go member Stuart Wainstock, an Uptown resident, uses the car-sharing service more often — typically six to 10 times a month. He’s also a Zipcar member and uses that service for trips to Target or IKEA.

He typically spends $40 to $100 a month on the services.

“Car2Go and Zipcar have both been lifesavers. I haven’t owned a car for a few years now, but the car-sharing services mean I still have car options,” he said. “There is no upselling or shaming that occurs like I’ve experienced with some of the larger rental car companies.”

He said the car-sharing programs’ smartphone apps are “robust” and easy to use, making it a “breeze” to reserve cars ahead of time.

As for ways the services could improve, Wainstock said he’d like to see Zipcar expand its fleet and Car2Go expand the radius drivers are allowed to take the cars.

Peter Hentges, who works for Capella University downtown, also has Zipcar and Car2Go memberships.

He opts for a Car2Go when he’s making a short one-way trip somewhere and plans to use a cab or ride-sharing service later in the evening. He’ll take a Zipcar when he’s planning a trip with several stops or is planning to spend significant time outside of Minneapolis.

He’d like to see both services add more cars so it would be easy to pick one up, even in bad weather. He often has to take a bus or a Car2Go to a spot where a Zipcar is parked.

A primer on the car-sharing programs

Car2Go
www.Car2go.com

Overview: The company launched in Ulm, Germany in 2008 and is now in cities through Europe and North America.

How it works: Members pay a one-time $35 signup fee and then rates break down as follows: 38 cents per minute, $13.99 per hour, $72.99 per day and 45 cents per mile after a 150-mile trip (those rates don’t include the tax added to the cost.)

HOURCAR
www.Hourcar.org

Overview: A car-sharing program of the St. Paul-based nonprofit Neighborhood Energy Connection.

How it works: Apply for a membership and once approved, reserve a car online or by phone.

Cost: $50 application fee. Driving rates cost $6 or $8 per hour and 25 cents a mile.

Zipcar
www.Zipcar.com

Overview: Cambridge, Mass.-based company with more than 850,000 members around the world.

How it works: Apply for a membership and once you get your Zipcard, you can reserve a car for a couple of hours or a whole day.

Cost: $25 application fee. Driving rates range from $7.88 an hour to $72 a day depending on the membership plan and the vehicle reserved.