Car sharing may become licensed business in Minneapolis

The proposed ordinance would standardize the way companies like Car2Go work with the city.

A Car2Go vehicle drives down Eighth Street Southeast in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood on Monday. Currently there are 350 Car2Go cars in the city.

Sam Harper

A Car2Go vehicle drives down Eighth Street Southeast in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood on Monday. Currently there are 350 Car2Go cars in the city.

by Benjamin Farniok

After three years of testing the roads, car sharing organizations are buckling in for the long haul.
The city of Minneapolis is moving forward with a change to allow business licenses for car sharing programs like Car2Go, Zipcar and Hourcar. While these vehicles are used near the University, some students say they would rather walk.
Jon Wertjes, director of services for Minneapolis, said the new ordinance will make the rules for all three more consistent and simplify how they do business with the city. 
Car2Go’s operations will actually be cheaper under the new program because the city found parking the compact cars street side cost less than they expected.
Josh Johnson, general manager for Car2Go in Minneapolis, said the 3-year-old pilot program helped his company enter the market. The service offers one-way trip options, while others require round-trips.
First year psychology student Mira Gibis said she prefers to walk and doesn’t use the cars, especially considering how parking is set up around campus.
“If you park anywhere near campus, you still end up having to walk a fair distance,” she said, adding that she would consider using a car sharing service to travel longer distances, like to St. Paul or over the river to West Bank.
Electrical engineering junior Ben Farmer said it’s the services’ costs that make him prefer public transportation.
At a Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting last week, members of the Minneapolis City Council heard from Zipcar Minneapolis’ market manager, Brian Harvey. 
Harvey said his organization helps the environment by reducing the number of cars on the road.
“Each vehicle we put on the road displaces between nine to 13 personally owned vehicles,” he said at the meeting.
Harvey also said he believes the price the city charges for Zipcar vehicles to park on the street is too high and discourages them from expanding.
Zipcar and Hourcar, which both require vehicles to be returned to a dedicated parking spot after trips, pay about $100 per year for unmetered spaces, about 80 percent of the spaces’ estimated values, said John Wertjes, traffic and parking director for Minneapolis.
The price to rent a space is planned to stay the same for round-trip car services, but will decrease for sharing services like Car2Go, which don’t require cars to be returned to specific spots.
 Harvey said at the meeting he doesn’t want to be forced to get approval for parking from surrounding businesses, which the new ordinance would require.
The City Council will vote on the ordinance change at its meeting Friday.