City car-share program launch
By Katherine Gregor, 2:52PM, Tue. Nov. 17, 2009
When an international car company – Daimler AG – selects Austin for the North American launch of its progressive new subsidiary – Car2Go – you have to figure we’re doing something right. This morning the city and car-share company launched Car2Go's pilot phase: 200 tiny Smart ForTwo cars (33/41 MPG) for the city’s 13,000 employees.
City employees will use the cars for free for city business. For $12.99 an hour (billed by the minute), they also can use them 24/7 for personal driving anywhere in town. The pilot pick-up and drop-off area (Mopac to just east of I-35, Oltorf to 51st) already is dotted with the blue-and-white cars in city parking spaces.
Car2Go showed a marketing video for the Austin program; in it, an attractive twenty-something blonde woman in a low-cut black halter top smiles as she extols the program’s virtues: “I love this car!” and “It might be the easiest part of my day!” It explained that using carsharing instead of a personal vehicle eliminates the hassle of trips to the gas station, car mechanic, and car wash, and cost of car insurance.
After gathering data and test-marketing concepts in the first phase, the company plans to open Car2Go to the whole Austin community sometime in 2010, and add more vehicles – hopefully to include the first electric Smart cars. Downtown Austin also has become the North American headquarters for Car2Go, as it prepares to take the concept across the U.S.
We’re the second Car2Go city after Ulm, Germany, where 200 cars are now getting 500 to 600 uses a day. Nick Cole, the brand-new President & CEO of Car2Go North America, cited a number of reasons for selecting Austin: the city’s sustainable-mobility policies, the positive reception by city government, the community’s progressive attitude and environmental values, good economy, fast-growing downtown, concentration of high-tech companies and universities.
City Manager Marc Ott said he is “extremely supportive”; he expressed confidence that city employees will embrace the program, perhaps allowing reductions in the municipal fleet and associated costs. “Any time we can enter into a program that keep us at the forefront of implementing progressive solutions to complex challenges,” we’re on the right track, said Ott. “Facilitating innovative transportation solutions is integral to the city of Austin’s goal of becoming the best-managed city in America.”
According to www.fueleconomy.gov, driving a 2009 Smart ForTwo vehicle 15,000 miles annually emits 5.1 tons of greenhouse gases, putting it near the “best” end of the scale (3.5 to 16.2 tons). In addition, car-sharing combines well with public transportation and cycling, thus potentially lowering a city’s overall vehicle miles traveled.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised the program as a tool to reduce GHG emissions, and as a solution “to address the challenges associated with urban growth, mobility, and environmental sustainability.”
Plus, they make a swell lifestyle statement parked all over Downtown.