“This new development improves quality of life by enabling more people to affordably go where they want, when they want,” said Paul DeLong, president and CEO of car2go North America, in a statement.
The company also says it is waiving its $35 membership fee for a limited time and giving new members 15 minutes of free “drive time” to test out the service. (There will still be a $1 fee for “driver protection” i.e. accident insurance). Normally, it costs $1 plus $0.41 per minute of driving.
Officials in D.C. and Arlington said last year the main hurdle to cross-jurisdictional service was parking: there weren’t enough spaces available, and residents of some neighborhoods got annoyed at the sight of the Smart cars; people had been parking the Car2Go vehicles in residential areas along city borders to flout the rules.
Late last year, Arlington launched a yearlong feasibility study on point-to-point carsharing, through a partnership with Car2Go. Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach said the expansion of service in the District was the next logical step in the pilot.
But county officials pushed for expanded coverage after the first few months of the pilot produced lower-than-expected membership and vehicle use numbers.
“We found a lot of people have not signed up specifically for the reason that they cannot go to the District of Columbia,” said Aaron Landry, Car2Go’s general manager for D.C. “That’s actually hurt our membership.”
The county said in April that nearly 2,000 residents have signed up for the service and more than 6,600 trips have been taken, but membership and vehicle use during the pilot’s first few months were “lower than anticipated.” Moreover, the vehicles were often idle for longer than allowed, underscoring the need to make a change. In January, the county said, the carsharing service winnowed its Arlington fleet from 95 to 25 vehicles in light of longer-than-expected idle time and operating costs that were higher than expected.
Unlike Zipcar, Car2Go allows members to begin and end trips in any legal on-street parking spot in its coverage zone — members don’t have to return cars to designated parking spots. Cars can be unlocked via smartphone; the keys are inside. When returning it, users can park in any street-legal spot where the car can be left for 24 hours.
City and county officials were enthused about the prospect of expanded service. “car2go offers an innovative, sustainable transportation option, and we are proud to partner with our colleagues in Arlington County, to make travel easier and more flexible within the DC region,” said District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo, in a statement provided by Car2Go.
Said Leach, his Arlington County counterpart: “Our residents, workers and visitors will benefit from a seamless carsharing network that allows them to cross into the District, providing another transportation option for their daily trips.”