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Judging Transit Options – Car2Go

by Prince Of Petworth — January 2, 2013 at 11:00 am 63 Comments

Their website says:

“car2go is everywhere in the district with 300 vehicles, which are always ready to go, for as long and as often as you want. No fixed rental stations, but plenty of benefits for your budget and the environment.”

Rates are:

One time sign up fee $35 plus tax
Per minute $0.38 plus tax
Per hour maximum $13.99 plus tax
Per day maximum $72.99 plus tax
Per mi after 150 mi per trip 45 cents, plus tax

Last May a reader noted some unique parking opportunities for the tiny car. Any other fans?

  • Anonymous

    I just signed up recently and waiting for my membership card. This sounds like it makes more sense than a zipcar for my lifestyle- short trips within the city. I hope it meets my expectations!

  • Anonymous

    I love it! Car2Go has definitely made my non-car owning life less of an issue. I still use Zipcar for longer trips to the burbs or if I know I will need the car for longer period of time. I don’t usually have any issue finding a car and the only place that I have wasted time driving around to find a parking spot is around U street..

    If you know you can make it to your destination in 10 minutes or less and there are 2 people in the car it is less expensive than the metro and about the same as the bus.

  • Anonymous

    I love Car2Go, but I wish they had more cars.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed! I’ve been a member since June. And I love how easy it can be to hop in a car for a quick 5-10 min drive for under $4.

      Except when I can’t find a car nearby, which is becoming an ongoing issue here in the SE/NE area.

      • Anonymous

        a friend of mine works there and they just got a bunch of new cars so that shouldn’t be an issue for much longer

  • Anonymous

    Those cars look like roller skates.

  • I use both Car2Go and Zipcar fto complement my transit use and cycling. Both are very useful services for different scenarios. Car2Go has been a great asset for me and a much preferred alternative to taxis (which I have been boycotting). They have great customer service, and the one-way system is so incredibly practical. Just watch out for where you park it–I got slammed with a ticket for parking in a rush hour zone. But yes, I highly recommend Car2Go.

  • anon

    For the most part, I really like Car2Go. My biggest complaint is that I have technical problems on a fairly regular basis. For example, I’ll find a car that says it’s available, swipe my card, and it won’t work. I’ll try again, still no luck. I then call customer service and spend five minutes working with them trying to resolve the issue, only to have them take the care out of service because something’s not working. So now I’ve wasted 10 minutes and could have just taken the bus.

    I also live in Eckington and sometimes there aren’t cars nearby. Otherwise, I really like it and find I use it far more often than zipcar.

  • stacys

    Love it! It’s a great cab replacement in an area that it’s hard to get cabs to come to (i.e. Brookland).

  • Anon

    Love Car2Go! And they definitely have some of the best customer service. Great for short trips; not so great for sitting in Downtown traffic. That $.38 can add up quickly. Driving a smart car is totally screwing up my ability to parallel park a normal-sized car though.

    I also wish people didn’t leave their trash in the car. I once found 3 moldy cookies under the passenger seat. Car2Go staff will clean the cars, but some of the mess is seriously unnecessary.

  • Sampson

    Car2Go is the car sharing service that works best for me.

    Up sides:
    1. Being able to leave their cars at my destination is a HUGE bonus. Having to go to a specific parking spot or return the car before my trip ends is just not useful for me. That might be good for a Home Depot run, but I usually use carshare when visiting friends or going to a meeting. I don’t want to pay while at my destination.

    2. The cars being scattered makes it far more likely that I’ll find one nearby (though sometimes that’s not true), wherever I am in the city.

    3. I like being able to walk up to a car and just scan in or make a reservation, though the website’s a little weird.

    Down sides:
    1. They should expand the home range to the Beltway, which would not only make it a far more practical service for their existing customers but also gain them a lot of customers in places like Bethesda, Alexandria, Arlington, and and Silver Spring.

    As much as the company would like, I’m not going to replace my everyday biking and transit trips. They are most useful when I’m running late or need to get somewhere that isn’t transit accessible. We don’t live on an island in DC and I would use their service much more if I could end trips in suburban destinations.

    2. While the size of the cars doesn’t bother me and is great for parking, the quality does. Those Smart Cars have terrible transmissions, a fuel efficiency that is no better than cars far larger and cheaper, and awkward handling. They’re also not particularly cheap, so from any perspective – business or customer – they don’t seem to make a lot of sense. There must be a better small car on the market.

    • I agree, not sure why they don’t use Toyota Corollas. They’re just as cheap and have better gas efficiency.

      • Mercedes-Benz owns both smart and Car2Go, hence why they dump smarts into the Car2Go system (Mercedes needs to sell the smarts here to meet its EPA numbers, offsetting guzzlers like the S-Class). The rumor is that the smart brand may be killed, though, and if it does, I wonder what will happen with Car2Go.

        • Anonymous

          All of the cars I’ve used in DC are several years old, predating the service launch here, so I’m not sure where they came from. Knowing that Mercedes-Benz owns the service, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were low-mileage trade-ins that they would have little chance of selling on car lots.

    • D

      I disagree completely about expanding to the burbs. Doing so would degrade the level of service current users enjoy (at least those that live and work in DC) as cars could easily be tucked away in hard to reach cul-de-sacs for days on end. That still happens to some degree in less dense areas of the city, but it would be much more of a problem in, say, Potomac.

      I love car2go and probably use it more than I should, but agree with others that the company should improve the quality of its card readers and touch screens over time to reduce technical glitches. And of course, add more cars!

      • Sampson

        Obviously they would need to add more cars to expand to the suburbs, but your perception of suburbs as ‘cul-de-sac’ doesn’t match most of what is inside the Beltway. Maybe they limit where you can leave a car outside the city to certain jurisdictions, but DC proper is very tiny in relation to the metro area. I live in the middle of DC and transit or bike-share gets me most places I need to go in the city. The real practicality of any car-share program is letting customers go where they otherwise could not without a car, which Car2Go largely fails to do (this is why you find so many Car2Gos lined up along the border of the city).

        Capital Bikeshare has had no problem expanding to the suburbs without diminishing service to the city. It’s just a matter of scaling up responsibly. Opening up new markets in large satellite population centers is going to bring more money to the company that would allow such regional growth.

        I think we should always support integrating multi-modal transportation regionally rather than drawing an exclusionary line around the city.

        • Anonymous

          Hrmmm, the vast majority of Car2Go cars follow the flows of commuters. Tons of cars in downtown during the day and then lots of cars in NW in the evenings. The vast majority of cars are sitting in a straight line that extends across the map from Glover Park to Petworth. While there are undoubtedly some cars sitting at the edge of the District, I wouldn’t say that there are a lot.

          • Sampson

            Well, I see a lot clumped around the outlying DC Metro stops. Perhaps some outbound commuters drive as far as they can before hopping on the train.

        • JB

          I agree it would be nice to be able to go to nearby Arlington, Bethesda etc. (i.e. neighboring dense areas) and that scaling up can help achieve that goal. Capital Bikeshare is not the best example though – scale is certainly part of it, but the bikes can be easily moved by truck when one location is full and another empty. Cars2Go would have much bigger problems if the cars were really just being used for roundtrips by DC residents to the ‘burbs. In any event, I hope and expect that they are at least doing the research to see if it would be economic to expand and it would certainly be to my benefit.

      • Anonymous

        I totally agree with D on no suburb expansion. I think that’s a surefire way to make sure that almost all the cars end up outside the city every evening, which would, in my opinion, drastically reduce its usefulness for city dwellers. I don’t think it’s meant to be a suburban solution.

        • Sampson

          I often think, ‘What if the city boundary wasn’t arbitrarily drawn where it was? What if Bethesda, Alexandria, etc. were just neighborhoods rather than cities? Would anyone fight be clamoring to say the equivalent of “I don’t want Car2Go extending out to 16th Street Heights!” or “Keep it out of Brookland so I have more cars at U Street!”

          I just think we need to design transportation systems for the flow of people and not the boundaries of cities. From that perspective, it makes far more sense to include the major commercial and residential centers just over the border. Maybe it would require more staff to relocate vehicles to maintain balance.

          • D

            Sampson, I understand your point. The folks over at GGW often make similar arugments about the blurred suburb/city distinction that are sometimes compelling. But in this case, the argument doesn’t work. Your initial suggestion to include everything inside the beltway, for example, would be a mess. While there are many walkable surburban areas, there are also many neighborhoods inside the beltway that are secluded and not accessible without a car.

            Allowing users to leave the car in those locations would essentially make the cars private vehicles for days at a time, defeating the purpose of the system. Yes, Silver Spring and Bethesda are urbanish and there are some cul-de-sacs in DC too (I parked a car2go in one of them Sunday morning and the car is still there as I type this post, illustrating my point) but city lines generally mitigate this problem in the most predictable way possible. And because the system does not have docks, like Bikeshare, car2go boundaries need to be predictable.

          • Sampson

            As I said, it would be easy for them to expand Car2Go to central Bethesda, Silver Spring, Alexandria, Pentagon City, etc. without allowing cars to disappear into far flung subdivisions. That said, there are tons of obscure subdivision streets in DC once you get out of the central neighborhoods. They don’t seem to cause many problems and I do think they have staff that re-position cars.

            I’m sure they’re studying it. No sense in a business losing good money when they have a successful service and the ability to expand its market.

    • Sampson, interesting info on the SmartCar’s drawbacks (poor handling, lower fuel efficiency than one would expect for such a small car).

      BGluckman, I didn’t know that Mercedes owned Car2Go. I guess that explains it — until I read that, I was thinking that the only advantages of the SmartCar would be (for the user) its small size and consequent ease of parking, and (for Car2Go’s marketing purposes) its eyecatching-ness.

    • emuhawk

      Agreed about the transmissions & handling. I got in on the free registration deal, so I’ve been using this as a supplement to my zipcar membership when I need to make a one way trip. I love just about everything about it, except the constant lurching and hesitating when the car is shifting gears. I’ve tried it in “manual” mode using the paddle shifters, and it doesn’t work much better (if at all).

  • car2getthere

    Regular user here. I have been a Zipcar member in the past but never used it much because I considered it a pretty expensive and inconvenient way to get around. Car2go has improved on the Zipcar car sharing model by allowing you to end trips at your destination and park virtually anywhere in DC. I don’t always have a car2go right around the corner waiting for me, but they seem to cycle in and out of Mt Pleasant often enough that I generally don’t have to wait too long. They have a smartphone app and I recommend all users get comfortable with it. When you see a car you want, you can reserve it right away. So long as you get there in 15 minutes, it’s yours.

    As far as problems go, I don’t like how the first minute of all of my trips is spent waiting for the car to communicate with the mothership and then typing in all the login stuff on that touch screen in the vehicle. The cars don’t seem to get cleaned as often as Zipcar. The transmissions are funky, but I understand that’s the case with all Smartcars. Parking is sometimes a problem, but I’ve found metered spots are usually available and they’re always free with Car2Go. Being confined to DC doesn’t bother me a bit, but I think it would be cool if they added the DCA parking garage to the operating area.

    It’s a good system. I’ll be a user so long as they keep their rates reasonable.

  • I work in an area with few bus lines and basically no cab traffic, so Car2Go is a great option if I’m standing at the stop and the bus isn’t coming as a last-ditch option to make it somewhere on time. I find the cost is a little bit cheaper than a cab for a 3 or so mile trip in rush hour traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Car2Go is great. A little more than public transportation, but less than a cab (if you drive at the right times). I try to avoid driving during rush hour, but I love using it when the Metro or buses have spottier service like on the weekends. My average trip costs about $5-6. The engine sounds like a lawn mower, but it’s convenient as hell.

  • Anon

    Love the service, but it definitely encourages me to drive faster in order to get the best price for my trip.

    • Seriously. The pricing structure definitely incentivizes fast driving. I also curse like a sailor when I get stuck at a red light and see that the walk timer has 60 or 75 seconds on it, lol

    • Anon

      That is until you get the friendly Car2Go email with a $150 speeding ticket and speed camera photo attached to it. Oops.

  • Anonymous

    Love car2go when I can’t use metro rail or bus. Ive been boycotting taxis and found this to be a great alternative.

    I travel to NYC frequently on Amtrak and usually can’t take the metro because I leave before it opens or get back after metro closes. I wish they had a pool of cars and reserved parking in at hubs like Union Station or even National Airport.

  • Anonymous

    My only problem with these little cars is that some customers seem to think that you can ditch the car anywhere. Uh, no. It has to be a legal parking spot. Not in front of a hydrant or in a Metrobus stop.

  • We used it exactly once, and it was such an awful experience, we never went back. Besides the crappy car itself, we found out that there are spots on the Hill where the system won’t communicate with the network at all, which left us driving around for a good 15 minutes trying to find a spot where we could leave the POS. On top of that, calls to Customer Service went simply unanswered. We still keep a membership in case of emergency, but haven’t used it since.

  • Love Car2Go, I’m a huge fan. Living in the U Street area, it’s basically replaced cabs for me (which I am also boycotting like the plague). I still have my ZipCar membership, but I’m thinking of getting rid of it as I’m not in the suburbs all that often. Parking has NEVER been an issue, as the car can fit into the tiniest of street spots. And even if you are parked somewhat illegally (ie. the tail or front end of the car is protuding past the street sign into a no-parking zone), the car will be snapped up by another user within 10-15 minutes.

    The engines are crappy and I’d never buy one. However, it’s perfect for my needs. If I’m going into VA on the weekends or late night to see friends, I like to take the Car2Go to the Farragut West metro station. It cuts down on a lot of my travel time by avoiding the transfer at L’Enfant.

    Another major gripe is that there simply aren’t enough cars spread out throughout the city during all times of day. By 6pm on a weekday, all the cars are gone from downtown and 70% of them are congregated in Adams Morgan/CoHi/Mount Pleasant. If you’re in downtown at the wrong time, the nearest car will be 1.5 miles away. Capitol Bike Share also follows similar commuting patterns, but has enough bikes that you can at least find one or two bikes close by regardless of time of day.

  • anonymous

    Excited to hear how many people are boycotting taxis 🙂 I am not alone.

    • I took a Super Shuttle to the airport at 3:00 am for a 6:30 am flight just so I wouldn’t have to take a taxi. And it was worth it.

  • Anonymous

    I have Car2Go, and carry the card in my wallet, but in the nearly 9 months I’ve had it, I have never once used it. Why? I can NEVER FIND A CAR WHEN I NEED ONE. Whenever I look it up, it seems the nearest car is three quarters of a mile away at least — at which point, if the purpose of taking a car is to avoid carrying heavy/bulky things, I might as well take a cab. In further study, I’ve noticed that there are always cars available down by the mall, which it seems most residents don’t use them. I think the system would benefit greatly from some sort of redistribution like capitol bikeshare uses.

    • Car2Go does do some redistributing, but the job isn’t as easy as it is with Capital Bikeshare (and Capital Bikeshare doesn’t really have it that easy either). With Capital Bikeshare, they can move multiple bikes with a single truck, and all the bikes are clustered together at docks. With Car2Go, the cars just wander everywhere, and a single employee can only move one car at a time.

  • Anonymous

    They’ve almost completely replaced cabs for me and the technical issues I’ve had haven’t been very inconvenient.

    Minor gripe: In my neighborhood it does appear that they get used quite a bit by people commuting downtown for work Monday through Friday. I see them parked around my office near Metro Center during much of the day. Seems kind of like a waste to have them all clustered downtown during much of the day but I’m not sure what car2go can do to avoid this from happening.

    • Also probably not a good deal for the D.C. government, which I believe created the “Zone 9” parking permits — which allow a car to park in any zone, or for free at a meter — specifically for Car2Go and charged them only $900 per permit.

      If there are a lot of Car2Go cars parked at downtown parking meters all day long, that’s meter revenue that the city isn’t getting. What’s the meter rate now, $2/hour or something? And usually with 2-hour limits, which I assume don’t apply to Car2Go?

    • Anonymous

      There has to be a system for redistribution of the cars in situations like this.

  • Anonymous

    I love it. It’s so much easier and cheaper than calling a cab. My only complaints are: they need more cars, and I wish they could expand to Arlington. It would be awesome if you could use the car to drive to DCA.

    • YES! Having the option to take a Car2Go to DCA would be awesome, especially for early morning flights.

  • Anonymous

    Overall I love Car2Go–super-convenient (I live in Columbia Heights and it’s rare that I can’t find a car within four blocks) and economical (less than $4 to get to Adams Morgan, whereas a cab would run me $8.) The cars themselves do kinda suck–as another commenter said I’d never buy one, but if I’m just popping across town to run an errand, I can certainly deal with the lurching for 15 minutes. My major complaint with them is that every piece of technology I have to use seems to have problems. The app sucks (at least the Android version), the website is hard to navigate, and sometimes the transmitter thingy in the car can’t talk to the “mothership” (to borrow a phrase from another commenter) which causes all kinds of problems. But again overall I highly recommend it.

  • Rob

    I have mixed feeling about Car2Go. The premise is great, but execution has had some major hiccups. Smarts aren’t so fun to drive, as many have already noted. I’ve gotten into some filthy cars too – I don’t know how often they’re actually cleaned.

    The company hasn’t done a good job educating its members about parking rules. Many people think you can park at any metered space or RPP space – that’s wrong. You’re never allowed to park in a rush hour zone, regardless of day or week or time of day. You’re also not allowed to park in an RPP zone on a street sweeping day. I hate showing up to a car that has a ticket on it because somebody didn’t follow the rules. I don’t trust that they’ll ding the responsible member , so I always call customer service to let them know what happened, which just wastes more time.

    Since there’s no balancing mechanism, it’s simply not reliable. Good luck finding a car anywhere within a mile of Union Station on a Sunday night, for example.

    Lastly, despite “insurance included”, you’re on the hook for a $1,000 damage deductible. Maybe it’s not to other people, but to me that’s a hefty chunk of change.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think you can blame them for their members not knowing that you can never park in an illegal spot/rush hour lane. They explain that pretty clearly, and it is true of almost any other permit you can get in the city (including residential permits). People just don’t listen.

      Also, you don’t have to worry about being ticketed for someone else’s problem. They send you a copy of the ticket with their bill. If you don’t think it was you, then all you have to do is log on to your account online and check your log. This happened to me, once. I just called them and told them that, based on my log, I didn’t leave it in the ticketed area and I didn’t have the car during the ticketed time. They fixed it immediately and it didn’t cost me more than a few minutes. The only precaution I take when there’s a ticket on the car is I snap a photo of it with my phone so I can have the ticket myself.

  • anonymous

    I love car2go! The app is super convenient to find and reserve cars. It has replaced cabs. I agree that they need more cars. They just added 200 cars but as demand increases, it’s harder to find a car near by. I’m glad it is doing well.

  • SF

    I just tried to sign up and their website is a total mess. After going through the entire registration, there is absolutely no confirmation that things were submitted or accepted or that anything is in the works… very clunky.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. But their lack of with-it-ness means I never got charged my membership fee, so it has its upside!

      • Anonymous

        I had the same problem. I applied and months later still hadn’t heard from them. I couldn’t find a phone number on their website (don’t bother trying to email, you won’t get a response) and it turns out they’d never gotten then info from my state’s DMV. After I called it only took a few days.

        • Anonymous

          I got my card, have been driving around, and still have not been charged membership (other than the charges for individual rides).

  • Love Car2Go! It clearly beats ZipCar in most situations unless you need a bigger vehicle for a Home Depot run or something. C2G’s one-way, park-anywhere-legal deal is terrific for those days you need to make a quick hop where rail/bus isn’t convenient. (E.g., took Metro/bus to Politics & Prose after work for an author event, then Car2Go for a quick drive home).

  • Anonymous

    Love Car2go, but for me it has replaced metro more than cabs. Only complaints are slow technology when starting/ending reservations, availability of cars (depending on time of day) and poor tranmissions. These minor objections are completely outweighed by how amazingly convenient the service is. The best parts for me is the one way rental and pricing particularly not having a drop fee. This encourages use for short duration trips as well as longer ones.

    I’d love to see Car2go allow start/end of trips to DCA, IAD and BWI. They could buy up some parking spots at each and allow cars to be picked up/left there.

    • Honestly, I’d crap my pants if I drove one of those boxes on the highway to IAD or BWI. They don’t seem too durable in a high speed accident.

      • bll

        The Smart Car is essentially a roll cage so it’s not as unsafe as it looks.

  • andyn

    I just wish I could connect my ipod. I hate the radio. Love car2go, so so much.

  • Only dislike with both Care2Go and Zipcar is that they are used by people who don’t drive frequently (which is their business model) and they often are very bad drivers – ignore basic rules and courtesies. We once called Car2Go on someone driving exceptionally bad.

    This is spoken as both a pedestrian and a driver.

    • That’s a rather obtuse assumption. There are car share members like myself who drive quite frequently, but that is beside the point. Just because people do not drive frequently does not mean that they are bad drivers, and people who drive everyday are not necessarily safe drivers. I am sure we can all think of dozens of contradictions to both of these archetypes, but the plural of anecdote is not data, so it would be rude and narrow-minded of us to draw conclusions about a group of people based on a few outlying observations.


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