Twin Cities car2go shrinks service area

This car-sharing company will continue to operate in and around the University.

A Car2Go Smart car sits parked in downtown Minneapolis on 9th St. S on Monday afternoon.

Image by Joe Sulik

A Car2Go Smart car sits parked in downtown Minneapolis on 9th St. S on Monday afternoon.

by Kristina Busch

The car-sharing service car2go has scaled back its presence in the Twin Cities to concentrate its cars in more high-demand areas. 
The company downsized its 107 square mile service area — which was the company’s largest service area — to 50 square miles last week. The University of Minnesota area is included in the company’s smaller footprint. 
“Through a lot of member feedback and our own market research, we found that cars were sitting up to 75 percent longer in most lower-usage areas,” said Josh Johnson, car2go Twin Cities general manager. “That ultimately affected the overall vehicle availability in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is unfair for residents to have a car sitting there that much longer when it could be in the core area where it could be used more.”
He said the change would also reduce parking congestion.
In the most popular areas in Minneapolis and St. Paul, car2go cars are used up to 14 times a day, with 90 percent of all trips happening in these key areas, Johnson said.
The car-sharing company was established in Minneapolis in August 2013 and St. Paul in July 2014. The new “home area” will have 340 cars circulating in Minneapolis and 100 cars stationed in St. Paul, Johnson said. 
“[C]ar2go is different than your conventional car rental company because, usually, car rental is done by the day, while car-sharing allows people to rent their car by the hour,” said Frank Douma, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs director of state and local policy program.
In Minneapolis, the new service area extends from East 54th Street in the south to Northeast 27th Avenue in the north part of the city, and it reaches to France Avenue South to the west. In St. Paul, the service area is in between Minnehaha Avenue and St. Clair Avenue. There will be six service stations to the north and south of the Minneapolis “home area.” St. Paul stations have yet to be determined.
Last week, the company began retrieving cars from the previous home area, parking them in the new locations and updating the app and website with a new map, Johnson said. 
Other car-sharing services
Car-sharing services allow people to not have to worry about paying for gas, insurance or vehicle maintenance, while having the benefit of being able to go wherever they need to go, Douma said. 
Other car-sharing programs, like Zipcar and Hourcar, are similar to more traditional car rental companies because the user must return the car to the same designated location, he said.
But these companies are similar to car2Go in that riders receive free gas cards and can pay an hourly rate, Douma said. 
At the University of Minnesota, students can pay $35 for an initial Hourcar membership fee and ride at a rate of $8 per hour. 
For the 2014-15 school year, Hourcar had a total of 731 members with more than 140,000 miles driven. 
“Even when you own your car, it’s probably parked 90 percent of the time,” Douma said. “Car-sharing services work because they allow the car to be in use a greater percentage of the day and more efficiently.”