“There’s a Car2Go fever going around right now. Those of us who are already members are raving about it; and those who aren’t yet members don’t want to be left out.”
The voice brimming with optimism about Miami’s newest, green transportation alternative is that of Rodrigo Galavis, co-owner of FilmMia, a local Motion Picture Production Management Company. Galavis and a colleague, Cigarra Expressions’ Arturo Perez, were recently opining at the inexorably with-it Panther Coffee about the brand new car-sharing company called Car2Go. Coincidentally, the two had just arrived in one of Car2Go’s very vehicles, and took but a nanosecond for both to show how ga-ga they’d become over benefits of car-sharing.
For the uninitiated, Car2Go is Miami’s latest mobility alternative: a car-sharing service that affords its members all the comforts and conveniences of vehicle ownership without the hassles, costs, or burdensome search for parking. At just $0.38/minute, Car2Go members have access to 240 blue and white SMART cars which are conveniently scattered throughout the City of Miami. Through a partnership with the Miami Parking Authority, Car2Go drivers can end their one-way journeys in most non-restricted curb side parking spaces, any Residential Parking Restricted Neighborhoods and all parking meter/paystation locations without having to pay in the City of Miami.
“…it’s an easy and affordable way to get you from point A to B,” noted Galavis.
“It’s also a great and efficient alternative between taking the train/bus or a taxi,” adds Perez.
Of course it takes more than a couple early adopters and an accommodating company to prove that a concept’s time has come; it also takes a certain wherewithal, and the capacity to deliver on what’s promised. To twist Gertrude Stein’s infamous precept, there needs to be a there there, and therein lies C2G’s genius.
Car2Go’s sudden appearance in Miami isn’t a coincidence. A number of factors have made car-sharing viable including the recent urban renaissance, the rising costs of car ownership and maintenance, increased congestion, and the economic recession. Together, these factors create an environment favorable to car-sharing programs that provide car-free residents with the freedom they seek in our otherwise autocentric cities.
Unlike other car-sharing programs (See: Zipcar or RelayRides), Car2Go’s one-size fits most approach gets down to the basics: providing simple, efficient vehicles to enhance mobility. A big difference between Car2Go and its competitors is the ability to use the vehicles for one-way journeys.
For a limited time, the company is waiving the initial $35 registration fee (promo code “HEAT”). Once registered, you’ll find that getting in and going about is as easy as operating an ATM. There’s no gas to buy (though an on board gas card is available should it be needed), and, because of C2G’s deal with the Miami Parking Authority, parking is included as well within the home base, an area that stretches from the Grove to 79th Street, the Bay to beyond the Marlins Stadium.
In a city where parking is at a premium, traffic is notoriously snarled, a woeful transit network, and taxis are too often hard to come by, Car2Go is a cinch. With the added myriad costs associated with car ownership the argument is over — the clear winner is Car2Go.
A few months ago we realized Miami was missing out on the benefits of car sharing and asked, “Dude where’s my Zipcar?” As proponents of this easy car sharing program we were disappointed to see that it wasn’t more widely used in our region, although Miami Beach and the University of Miami recently became proponents of this useful transit tool. Students are a great place to start introducing the benefits of car sharing, as Zipcar is inexpensive and accessible to people on limited budgets. I wonder when our other local universities, self-proclaimed centers of research and academic excellence, will adopt similar programs.
Zipcar, and other similar car sharing programs are seeking to expand their efficiency in urban settings with a new wave of vehicles called the CityCar. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab has recently experimented with small electric motors located in the wheels of this tiny, nimble and practically silent vehicle. The CityCar has wheels that turn 360 degrees, enabling it to slip neatly into tight urban parking spaces. A Smartcar that is designed to stack like a supermarket cart when not in use, the CityCar is aptly named because its unique maneuvering ability will allow parking in front of subway stations and office buildings, where people could squeeze in as needed for short-term use.
So, dude where’s my CityCar?
When it comes to car companies, you won’t find me singing the praise of many, or any for that matter. However, Zipcar the largest and most efficient car sharing service in the world deserves our respect, if not our courtship, because they value automobiles as they should be: A modern utilitarian device, not a modern necessity.
In a time where everyone is concerned about high gas prices and carbon emissions, Zipcar has some remarkable secondary environmental and urban benefits. See the short list from their website below.
- Each Zipcar is capable of replacing over 15 privately-owned vehicles
- Zipcar replaces older cars with new ones that have more stringent pollution controls
- Green space and urbanity is preserved as fewer parking spaces are required to meet the driving needs of the same number of people.
- Less strain on urban parking infrastructure - saving businesses, governments, and universities money.
- Lower fuel consumption means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and particulates.
- And yes, less congestion on the roads
However saintly Zipcar may be environmentally, their real success comes in convenience. They make car ownership unneccessary by making car-sharing so easy and affordable. After paying a low annual membership fee, one never has to pay for insurance, maintenance or gasoline ever again.
While living in Boston I found it impractical to keep my car in the city. Boston is inherently walkable, well-served by transit and parking is an expensive, time-consuming nightmare. Fortunately, Zipcar was expanding at a rapid rate within the city. I obtained a membership through work and promptly abandoned my car at my sister’s suburban house. On the rare day that I needed a car, I had a choice of vehicles conveniently located down the street in designated Zipcar parking spaces. All I had to do was wave my keypass in front of the windshield and off I went. Upon returning, I just left the car right where I found it. A stark contrast to the days where I would drive around in circles for upwards of an hour just to find a parking space within a mile of my apartment.
After leaving Boston, I ended up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another great city, albeit much smaller, which shares the same urban attributes car-sharing services find appealing. Just as I left that city, they too received Zipcars, allowing even more University students, employees and citizens to lessen their car dependence. Same story for Lewiston, Maine, the small Maine city where I went to college. Will South Beach be next?
At one point Zipcar listed Miami on their web-based location expansion map. Although the map seems to be missing now, Miami Beach’s tourist throngs, weekend visitors, employer/ees, dense mixed-use urban structure and notorious parking crunch make it the logical south Florida city in which the Cambridge, Massachusetts based company should expand. Downtown Miami, the Biscayne Boulevard corridor, Coconut Grove, downtown Coral Gables and the University of Miami should follow. If you agree, call them up and say “Dude, where’s my Zipcar.” With enough support, we may be able to jump start their inevitable south Florida expansion.
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