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Car2Go says rental car pilot programme is going gangbusters in Chicago


Using the Car2Go app in Chicago, Kamron Moore shows the amount of available SmartCars in his area. The program allows you to pick up a car, which you find using the app and allows you to drop it anywhere in the service area. — Chicago Tribune/TNS

Using the Car2Go app in Chicago, Kamron Moore shows the amount of available SmartCars in his area. The program allows you to pick up a car, which you find using the app and allows you to drop it anywhere in the service area. — Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO: Car2Go, the company that allows its rental cars to be picked up in one part of a city and dropped off in another, has gained more than 10,000 members in Chicago since a pilot programme started in late July, the company said. 

“It's exceeding our expectations,” said Josh Moskowitz, the Austin, Texas-based company's regional director for North America. He said he expects business to improve even more as the weather gets colder. 

The service has 400 cars – about half are two-passenger “Smart” cars and half are Mercedes Benz sedans and SUVs. Car2Go operates in an area roughly bounded by Foster Avenue on the north, Homan and Kimball avenues on the west and Cermak Road on the south. Portions of the North Side neighbourhoods Lakeview and Lincoln Park are not in the program because aldermen were concerned about parking. 

The “free-floating” car-share pilot was approved by the City Council to run through June 2019 with up to 500 cars. Proponents say the concept can persuade drivers to give up their personal cars, reducing total vehicles and pollution, though it has failed in some other North American cities due to parking and other issues. 

Moskowitz said members have been using the cars for trips longer than the average commute, and about half of the trips are on weekends. Moskowitz said this indicates that the cars are not being used for commuting, but to replace other private vehicle trips. 

Car2Go allows members to pick up a car within a designated zone and then park it somewhere else in the zone. Customers pay a lifetime membership fee of US$5 (RM21) to rent the vehicles, which they locate and reserve using a phone application. 

The company pays for insurance, gas and parking while drivers pay for the time the car is used. Rental costs vary depending on vehicle type, ranging from US$15 (RM62) per hour for a Smart car to US$19 (RM79) for a sedan. Moskowitz said Smart cars have proved more popular than the Mercedes vehicles, even on weekends.

One ongoing snag is with Chicago Parking Meters, which owns the city's parking franchise and is still in discussions with Car2Go on how it can pay for meters, Moskowitz said. Car2Go users have to pay for parking meters themselves if they use them, and cannot end their trips at one. Customers can park for free in residential areas that do not require a permit, or in designated parking lots, Moskowitz said. 

Kamron Moore, 40, of Lincoln Square, who does not own a car, said he prefers Car2Go to the Zipcar sharing service, since he does not have to return a vehicle to a specific location. At 6-foot, 5-inches tall, he had expected to feel cramped in a Smart car, but finds there is plenty of room. 

“For groceries and things I get at Target, they're just fine,” said Moore, who said he has not had trouble finding parking. “When I've had to move boxes, I used one of the Mercedes.” 

Lindsey Clark, 42, said she doesn't have a car and sometimes uses Car2Go to go from her nanny job in the West Loop to visit her boyfriend in Albany Park. She mostly uses the CTA, and occasionally bikes. 

“I was using Uber for a while, but I've grown to not love ride-sharing,” said Clark. “The majority of drivers I've had don't know the city and how to navigate as well as the cab drivers.” 

Clark said that if there was Car2Go near her home in the South Loop, she would use it more. 

Ald. Tom Tunney, whose congested ward includes Wrigley Field and is not currently part of the program, plans to wait until the pilot ends next year before reconsidering allowing Car2Go, said chief of staff Bennett Lawson. 

“We need some mechanism to deal with it on game days and event days,” said Lawson. He noted that the ward has “very few” unmetered, non-permit spaces. “That's something that would have to be addressed once the pilot's over.” – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service

   

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