City of Austin takes the smart route

These Car2Go vehicles, making their debut Tuesday at the Long Center, will initially serve city employees before the car-share program expands citywide.
These Car2Go vehicles, making their debut Tuesday at the Long Center, will initially serve city employees before the car-share program expands citywide. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Gregor)

On Tuesday, Car2Go and the city of Austin officially launched a pilot car-share program at a Long Center media event. For the first six months, 200 smart fortwo cars, which are rated at 33 mpg for city driving, will be available only to the city of Austin's 13,000 employees to use for city business; they also can use them for personal driving anywhere in town, billed separately. The pilot pickup and drop-off area, bounded by MoPac to just east of I-35 and Oltorf to 51st, is already dotted with the petite blue-and-white cars in city parking spaces.

German carmaker Daimler AG chose Austin as the first North American city to test the program. After gathering data and test-marketing concepts in the first phase, the company plans to open Car2Go to the Austin community sometime in 2010 and, later, add more vehicles – hopefully including 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. Nicholas Cole, the new president and 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, the good economy, a fast-growing Downtown, and the concentration of high tech companies and universities.

City Manager Marc Ott said he's "extremely supportive," and he expressed confidence that city employees will embrace the program, perhaps allowing reductions in the municipal fleet and its associated costs. "Any time we can enter into a program that keeps us at the forefront of implementing progressive solutions to complex challenges, [we're on the right track]," Ott said. "Facilitating innovative transportation solutions is integral to the city of Austin's goal of becoming the best-managed city in America."

Not only do the 2009 smart fortwo vehicles get good gas mileage; in addition, car-sharing combines well with public transportation and cycling, thus lowering a city's overall vehicle miles traveled. Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised the program as a tool to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and as a solution addressing "the challenges associated with urban growth, mobility, and environmental sustainability."

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Car2Go, smart cars, Daimler, city of Austin

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