Commuters find solace in affordable car rental program

 Car2go launched in Calgary on July 21 with students and other commuters alike welcoming the new program. San Diego, Birmingham, Vienna and Berlin are just some of the cities worldwide where similar car sharing programs have been introduced.

“I started using car2go two weeks ago when my Jeep broke down,” said Raquelle Kilotaitis, 25. “I think it’s great because they’ve thought of everything from phone apps to widely available parking.”

 The company offers a car rental service in a free-floating, pay-by-the-minute and use-on-demand manner. This allows users to drive the vehicle —Smart Fortwo cars by Mercedes Benz — for as long as they wish, without having to return it to the same location.

Users pay by the minute for the exact time they use the car. They can jump into the first unoccupied car they see on the road or reserve one up to 24 hours in advance.

Kilotaitis signed up for a membership online and downloaded the app to her Car2go member Raquelle Kilotaitis holds up a guide: “How to find designated parking spots.” Car2go has a contract with the city and has reserved public parking spots around the city for its users.

Photo by: Roxana SecaraiPhone within five minutes. The app shows which cars are available for pick-up in any given area, how much gas is in each car, and provides an option for reserving a car.
Cars may also be located and reserved via the car2go call centre, and online. There is a one-time membership fee of $35.

Difficulty getting a membership

For Tony Herring, 27, a 3D modeler living downtown, the membership process was a little harder.

“I am from the United States and was required to get an Alberta driver’s license before I could be approved for a membership,” he says.

Despite this inconvenience, Herring says the service has been very user-friendly.

“Car2go is affordable. I like that you don’t have to commit, and you pay for what you use.” -Raquelle Kilotaitis

Katie Stafford, car2go’s communications manager, says that for an
expanding city like Calgary, car2go is a flexible mobility solution.

There are currently more than 300 Smart Fortwo vehicles parked around Calgary available to members. The driver can drop off the rental in any available public parking space within the “home area” or at one of the specially marked car2go spaces.

“Car2go is affordable. I like that you don’t have to commit, and you pay
for what you use,” Kilotaitis says.

Kilotaitis says the insurance is similar to car rental insurance and damage noticed prior to use should always be reported. “You are essentially responsible for the damage you cause.”

Any driving or parking infraction will get charged to the individual’s account.

Kilotaitis says parking downtown is always a hassle and the program will encourage people to look for an alternative.

“If you need to go to a meeting, run errands, or just need to get somewhere, car2go is the answer. You aren’t forced to pay for hours worth of parking if you just need to park for 5 minutes.”

Alternative solutions:

Herring says the program has gotten so popular in such a short period of time that he wouldn’t rely on getting a car for an important meeting or appointment.

“Someone can get to the car before you do, whereas transit is not going Kilotaitis scans her membership card on the dash to unlock the doors to the car2go she reserved. Once the doors are open, she types in her code and the key is unlocked.

Photo byRoxana Secara anywhere,” he says.

“It is evident that this is cheaper and better than using a cab, but I’d like to see more cars, although, people who park downtown are already complaining about the smart cars taking up prime parking spots.”

Miles Dyck, manager of parking enforcement at Calgary Parking Authority says their agreement with car2go has worked quite well. He says car2go is paying for all the time the cars take up in each spot and are subject to the same parking rules as everyone else.

“There have been a few pockets of negative feedback and it goes back to those areas where a car2go car will appear in the same spots over and over again,” he says.

Dyck says the parking authority works with car2go to let them know about any issues and says the company has a fleet manager on the road that will move vehicles from problematic areas.

“From a revenue perspective, we won’t see a change with car2go, but from a transportation perspective, we support the alternative mode of transportation they have introduced because it’s part of the city’s sustainable transportation plan,” he adds.

rsecara@cjournal.ca 

What do you think about car sharing programs like car2go? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Correction: The article originally stated that the car2go fleet contained 150 vehicles, however, a representative from car2go Calgary says the car2go fleet now has more than 300 vehicles.