Point-to-Point Car-Share Service Car2Go Getting Ready to Launch in Brooklyn

Car2Go, a subsidiary of automotive giant Daimler AG, is hiring staff and preparing to launch in Brooklyn after more than a year of negotiations with the city, bringing point-to-point car-share to NYC for the first time. Car2Go will also be the first car-share company in the city to store its vehicles on the street, though the specifics of the arrangement with the city, such as the price the company will pay for curb access, have yet to be made public.

Car2Go, which sells point-to-point car-share by the minute, appears to be gearing up for a Brooklyn launch. Photo: Elliott Brown/Flick
Car2Go appears almost ready for a Brooklyn launch after more than a year of negotiations with DOT. Photo: ElliottBrown/Flickr

What differentiates Car2Go from other car-share services in New York is that users can make one-way trips. (Zipcar, a competitor, is getting into the one-way car-share game in other cities, but does not currently offer the service here.) The added flexibility could entice more car-owning New Yorkers to give up their private vehicles, though it’s tough to say whether this effect will outweigh the additional driving trips made by households without cars, which are the majority in NYC.

The other intriguing aspect of Car2Go is that its fleet of Smart Cars will be stored on the street. To close out a one-way trip, members must park on the street anywhere within the Car2Go service area. These zones are usually quite large: The company says it’s looking to cover Brooklyn before expanding to other boroughs. (It’s not clear whether the service will ever come to Manhattan, where transit coverage is superb, cabs are plentiful, and competition for curb space is most intense.)

Since the vehicles are located curbside, the company has to work out a host of issues with the city. “New York is not unique,” said Car2Go business development manager Josh Moskowitz. “There’s street sweeping, there are meters, there are rush hour restrictions.” Car2Go operates in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada, as well as 12 European cities. In each, the company reached an agreement with the local government and prohibits users from parking 24 hours before street sweeping or in an area with rush hour restrictions.

One of the downsides to these agreements is that they mask the cost of metered spaces from customers, who are allowed to park in those spaces as if they are free because Car2Go compensates cities for foregone meter revenue. A Car2Go customer can end a one-way trip by parking in a metered spot without paying extra. While another customer might soon drive that car away, the practice still raises questions about how Car2Go vehicles will affect curb occupancy and traffic congestion in commercial areas.

Car2Go has been in on-again, off-again negotiations with DOT for more than a year. Although there’s no official word of a deal, the company has started the launch process by hiring a marketing manager and a fleet supervisor in Brooklyn.

So when will Car2Go launch? “We don’t have any rough timelines right now,” Moskowitz said. “We’re moving closer.”

Update: “DOT has had preliminary conversations with Car2Go regarding their service,” said a DOT spokesperson. “There have been no formal negotiations and no agreement has been reached between Car2Go and DOT for a Car2Go launch within New York City.”

  • JK

    This should be viewed with extreme skepticism by the livable streets community. It appears to be a big set-back from the rational parking policies introduced under ParkSmart. Metering curb parking is foremost for encouraging turnover to make more spots available to reduce danger and delay from double parking and cruising. It will exacerbate parking problems to have Car2Go vehicles in any metered spots in which they park longer than other parkers. What matters is turnover, not whether a car rental company pays DOT the going — artificially low meter rate. If DOT is stupidly intent on eliminating the connection between curb metering and parking availability, and is essentially privatizing curbside parking, it should at least auction off the curbside spots. What might Zip, Avis, and Hertz pay?

  • Ari_FS

    Very interesting.

    Regarding parking at meters: assuming another user takes the car shortly after it’s parked in a meter zone, that seems reasonable. If not, then we have a problem. But the problem is only as big as the number of Car2Go cars in the service area.

    Another thing: many commercial streets with metered parking also have daily street sweeping. According to the 24-hour rule, those spots would be off limits. Will Car2Go users be able to park in those spots?

  • Walker

    “…where transit coverage is superb…”

    Not sure it’s accurate to refer to any aspect of the MTA as “superb.”

  • What about car trips from Manhattan to Brooklyn, or vice versa? What about commuting cross-town in areas far from the relatively few cross-town subway lines? These trips can still be rather cumbersome without a car.

  • datbeezy

    except, compared to essentially 100% of the rest of the country. MTA offers better overnight service than many other big cities offer at peak hour.

  • i9u37v5

    Now go to any other country. Even developing-world cities like Mexico City and Sao Paulo put the MTA to shame, to say nothing of Singapore or Hong Kong or Seoul.

  • Will the placement of these cars have to go through a community board approval process? Edit: I mean, I know they don’t get dedicated spaces, but since they will start showing up on Brooklyn Streets, will CBs want to or be asked to offer their input?

  • Guest

    They are “placed” where the last user leaves them.

  • Andy

    I haven’t seen a study on the impacts of one-way systems like this, but round trip carsharing reduces car ownership by a factor of 15 in most cities. If anything, having more options that cost less than car ownership is likely to only free up parking.

  • I get that. But since they will take “precious” parking spaces from “real” New Yorkers, I’m wondering what input, if any, CBs will want in the process.

  • Andy

    Car2Go uses a “geofence” and so each car needs to be returned within the limited area. I’m not sure if they don’t allow you to briefly be outside of that area, but when you are paying a high rate per minute, you’re probably better off using a taxi if you plan to stay at a destination outside the zone anyway. This is similar to round trip carsharing, where you pay for the time reserved, so for longer trips out of the city, getting a standard car rental for the weekend is likely going to be cheaper.

  • qrt145

    You can certainly leave the service area during your reservation, but parking outside the service area is your problem.

  • Becky

    You can even park a car outside the home zone, but you have to keep paying for it by the minute, and follow all regulations (such as paying at the meter and following the time limits) if you do that.

  • JK

    Not in metered parking. That’s for high turnover parking where parking demand is highest, not storing rental cars.

  • vnm

    I know it’s fun to bash the MTA, but, really.

    147 subway stations in a land area that measures 34 square miles is the best transit coverage you’re going to find anywhere in the world. On top of that you have the hub of the country’s biggest and busiest bus fleet, another subway (PATH), four railroads.

    You must be a New Yorker, because people everywhere tend to think that their own public transit system sucks, while everyone else’s is awesome. That’s why transit advocates in the rest of the country will usually say they wish their own system was more like New York’s.

  • waelrkjds

    Sao Paulo? hahaha. I lived there all my life. MTA puts SP to shame, not the other way around.

  • Chris Mcnally

    I’m in favor of reserving parking on every block for these car2go and other true car share systems. In Brooklyn the curbside is occupied for days by cars that never move or get used until street cleaning, then they move them and put them right back to sit for days more. This is such a waste of space.

    I think that people will be less likely to buy a car if they have this service available to them. The problem with Zipcar was that they did not rent cubrside space and instead used garages (which I think makes it more expensive) and that they do not support one way trips.

  • Bolwerk

    New York could learn from other places in the USA and abroad. Operating rules and the labor regime are antiquated as hell. Maintenance is deferred as a result, even basic cleaning. Planners here swig so much of Enrique Penalosa’s Kool-Aid that an existing railroad ROW might be turned into a busway and another ROW prime for subway expansion might be turned into a park. Even the cheap, low-capacity stuff like BRT balloons to have insane costs.

    It’s not all bad either. Good frequency, excellent reach, laudable late night service. As much as naysayers complain, NYCTA rail is at least pretty financially lean when you consider outcomes. New York has a lot going for it. Walker’s complaint is so unqualified that it probably is just mindless kvetching, but NYC transportation definitely has its blemishes, and sometimes pointlessly galling shortcomings.

  • Bolwerk

    I know Mexico City does, but does SP even have a subway?

  • vnm

    Glancing at the Mexico City Metro Wikipedia, I see it has one quarter of the stations of New York’s and one twentieth the number of cars, and yet it somehow crams in 80% of New York’s ridership. Yeah, I’m sure it puts NYCTA “to shame.” On the plus side, the fare is 24 cents!

  • Bolwerk

    Really that probably means it’s utilized more of the day, which is great. AFAIK, it’s a good system. I just don’t buy broad qualitative comparisons in general. Good systems meet the needs of their respective cities and good in one place may be problematic in another.

  • J_12

    Mexico City has a subway that is clean and cheap, but it covers only a limited part of the city and does not have much overnight or off-peak service.
    Sao Paolo has a subway that covers even less of the city.
    If New York only had 3 subway lines and none of them went outside of Manhattan, and late night service was severely limited or nonexistent, it might be comparable.

  • J_12

    quibble aside, the car2go service will introduce another way for people in the service area to avoid owning a car. If more people shift away from private ownership, it reduces the overall number of vehicles, as 1 shared car can substitute for multiple privately owned ones.
    Paying by the trip also encourages people to drive less, as they have to evaluate each trip on the basis of marginal cost.
    How they end up using metered parking spots seems like a minor concern.

  • lop

    Manhattan isn’t 34 square miles, the island is 22.7 miles. And there are many trips that are poorly served by transit.

  • qrt145

    I don’t know how you counted the number of stations, but the ratio is closer to two to one. 195 in Mexico City, 421 in New York. And comparing the number of trains in one city with the number train cars in the other is like comparing apples with apple trees. The right ratio again is closer to two to one.

    From personal experience, the Mexico City subway runs more frequently, is quieter, cleaner and faster than New York’s (at least than the local trains). On the other hand, it doesn’t have A/C (although the weather is nicer there), it doesn’t run at night, and, as you say, has fewer stations.

  • AnoNYC

    Whenever I hear the term “real New Yorker” I think Archie Bunker stuck in traffic on the B.Q.E. on his way to a community board meeting to bitch about some bike lanes.

  • vnm

    Thanks for the clarity. Like I said, “glancing.” I didn’t realize one article used cars as the metric and the other used trains. I was using 468 stations in NYC but your point is correct.

  • vnm

    You are correct, while the total area is 34 square miles, the land area is 22.7 square miles, which makes my point about the density of subway stations even stronger.

  • Andres Dee

    Aren’t we going to hear crying from local business owners about loss of parking for their customers? What about property owners who don’t like the look of shiny metal objects with logos on them?

  • J

    I disagree. The goal of the livable streets movement is to create an environment where it is safe and convenient to walk, bike, and take transit to reach most destinations. As others have mentioned, Car2Go offers a service which makes it easier to live without owning a car (a key determinant of driving), and anyone with a license and a credit card can use the service. Thus, the service can help people use a car when needed, and by not owning a car, they will walk, bike, and take transit more.

    JK, you mentioned this being contrary to sensible curb usage policy, but I don’t see it that way. Good curb use policy is about balancing the many needs of a city in a limited amount of space. Other curb uses often replace metered parking, including bike corrals, Citibike stations, and truck loading zones. Are you against these uses as well? They reduce metered parking supply, but I’d argue that they meet other needs. Finally, I don’t understand how this would even hamper the ParkSmart program. If anything, a market-based scheme for charging for metered parking would simply react to the change in the market. In this case, a minor decrease in supply (due to Car2Go vehicles sometimes occupying metered spaces) would result in a slight increase in meter rates until the desired equilibrium is reached. I recognize that most places don’t have ParkSmart, but I think that if an area is concerned, then a ParkSmart system would be a good complement to Car2Go.

  • Gayle Rose

    Interesting assumptions are being made. Base on studies in France, Seattle (Car2Go) and San Diego, one way car sharing takes people off of public transit, and reduces walking and biking. It seems that C2G does not serve ‘underserved’ areas well, has a more affluent user base, eats up parking in high demand areas and does not help lower car ownership (although it may help reduce the number of people driving into a city with their own car). There is no research to show that C2G carsharing helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions unless they have utilized an EV version of their Smart car. This is what we know (see research from 6T in France and Seattle’s first year report on C2G).

  • Seems like it would be much simpler and better to not allow Car2Go vehicles to park in metered spots.

  • J

    Maybe. I guess the bigger issue is that NYC still refuses to take a rational approach to regulating residential and commercial parking, which in turn, screws up a lot of other things.

  • Aisha

    What if the care is left at a spot at night, but the next day alternate side of the street parking is in effect, who is responsible to move
    the car? Parking spots are very difficult to get, especially in the evening in all Brooklyn neighborhoods.

  • Ian Turner

    As noted in the article, you have to park someplace with at least 24 hours of legal parking remaining.


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