NEW YORK—Every time Sabina Ptacin parks her little blue and white car on the streets of Brooklyn or Manhattan, passersby stop and ask about her ride. But it’s not her car—its a half-sized car-share car.
“It’s so small, you can park anywhere,” said Ptacin, who lives in Greenpoint. She and her husband only recently started using the car share, but a recent weekend trip all over Brooklyn and to Manhattan and back really sold her on the service, she said.
A month ago, tiny blue and white cars started popping up all over the neighborhood, and Ptacin noticed them.
She is 1 of the 13,000-plus car-share users who have joined Car2Go since it launched in October. The Daimler AG-owned company currently has 400 cars in the city.
Car2Go is a membership-based car-share service with a home area that covers a third of Brooklyn, all along the western waterfront.
Members can drive the two-person smart cars anywhere (on a minute, hour, or daily fee basis) but need to park the cars back in the home area. And Car2Go recently updated its app to let users reserve a nearby car on their phones.
The cars’ 9-foot-long size is what makes a difference, users said, because every other curbside nook and niche is big enough to park in.
Abby Lavin owns a car, but she’s still an avid user of Car2Go.
With a regular size car, Lavin said, “Trying to find parking in Brooklyn is difficult.” She owns her own baking business and makes frequent deliveries of pies-in-jars. Her larger vehicle is good for big deliveries or errands, but it can add an extra 10 minutes to the delivery time if she needs to look around for a parking spot.
Members can park anywhere on the street, or a metered spot if they want to pay the meter themselves. The company is also negotiating with several independent parking lots in Brooklyn to extend parking options.
On weekends, Lavin also uses Car2Go to get to the train.
“I live on the B/Q line, and the B train doesn’t run on weekends. If the Q doesn’t run on my stop, it’s a 45-minute walk to another train,” Lavin said. Taking a bus would be a nightmare, she said, and using her own car could mean quite a walk after parking anyway. So she uses the tiny smart car to go three or four stops down the subway line instead.
The addition of car sharing to Brooklyn’s transportation options hasn’t so much as extended connectivity between boroughs, but made traveling within Brooklyn simpler.
First and Last Mile
Sharing services aren’t so much changing what modes of transportation people use, but adding onto existing staples like the subway. Much like Citi Bike, Car2Go has quickly become an extension of New Yorkers’ transportation options.
Where people would normally have to walk another 10 or 15 minutes after getting off the subway, the cars are filling the gaps.
Ptacin said her husband is a huge fan. She owns a company and has a home office, but he works in Manhattan. His typical commute is walking to the ferry dock, taking the East River ferry to Manhattan, then taking the subway for trips in the city. Now he’s adding car sharing to the regular mix for restaurant outings in the evening.
“We don’t have a car but need access to one,” Ptacin said.
They’re also big fans of Zipcar, another car sharing service—for weekend trips upstate, errands like shopping, and getting around the city for work. But with shorter trips, it’s much easier to pick up a smaller car that can be parked and left anywhere in Brooklyn, she said. It’s not as comfortable, but it’s much more convenient. “It makes your life that much easier,” Ptacin said.
The first 100 days of launching in any city is an extensive study period for Car2Go, said Car2Go Communications Manager Adrianne Andang. The company has a “fleet team” of 50–100 people closely monitoring how the cars are used so as to make adjustments to improve the service in the future. Also, like Citi Bike, if a lot of cars are being driven from one neighborhood to another, the fleet team redistributes cars back to neighborhoods with a low supply.
Brooklyn is Car2Go’s biggest market; before the service launched, there were already 4,000 people signed up. In one month the membership count has risen to 13,000. The company currently operates in 30 cities worldwide with about 900,000 registered members.
The company recently released some Brooklyn data to celebrate its membership milestone, and announced that members have already driven 55,000 miles (about eight cross country trips in total). Members will be able to take one-way rides at a standard rate of 41 cents per minute, plus tax. The hourly rate is $14.99 and a day pass is $84.99. There is usually a $35 membership fee, but the company is offering a promotion through Dec. 21 with the code CAR2GOTIME.
Expansion is the biggest request from Brooklyn members, Andang said, adding that expansion is also the car share’s biggest priority for its next steps in the city.
Other improvements in the works include more parking in off-airport lots, a pilot program where bike racks are added to the backs of cars (it’s been working in Portland), and possibly installing charging stations so as to allow for a roll out of electric Car2Go vehicles.