Car2Go — a car-sharing service that allows drivers to rent small carson a per-minute or hourly basis for short trips around the city — continued its tour of New Orleans neighborhoods last week in the Lower Garden District, explaining its services and the parking agreement it hopes to reach with the city.
Car2Go, a subsidiary of Daimler that operates in 29 cities worldwide, hopes to deploy 200 cars onto the streets of New Orleans. Members can walk up to any car in the program, use a personal identification number, or PIN, to access the vehicle, drive anywhere within the service area and then park and leave the car for the next user, explained Matt Rufo, a transportation consultant with GCR, a local firm representing Car2Go in New Orleans.
Members pay about 41 cents per minute, or $14.99 per hour, Rufo said at a meeting with the Coliseum Square Association Monday night. There is no monthly fee, only an initial membership fee, he said.
"You only pay for what you use," Rufo said.
The cars can only be parked in an official service area, which generally means they will not be more than a five-minute walk from most users. The company would hire 15 to 20 full-time or part-time employees to service the cars, keep them full of gas and make sure that any cars parked in places where members are not using them are moved to more convenient locations, Rufo said.
Because members generally park the cars on the street, Car2Go needs to reach an agreement with city officials for how to pay for two types of parking. At parking meters, the company can use the vehicles' location data to determine how long they are parked, and would like to pay a monthly fee for that — instead of requiring drivers to feed the meters each time they park. In neighborhoods, the company needs to be able to buy the same sort of parking permits available to residents, Rufo said.
"They're not looking for a giveaway," Rufo said. "They're just looking for ability to park the cars in neighborhoods the way that residents do."
Car2Go already has begun discussions with the mayor's office and City Council members, and while none of them have publicly announced their support for Car2Go, they have encouraged the company to meet with neighborhood groups to get a sense of public support.
"The city has had introductory conversations with Car2Go regarding its business model and operating op-tions," Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press secretary, Brad Howard, confirmed. "As talks are just beginning, it is too early to pro- vide any updates on the progress of those conversations."
The company made a similar presentation in November to the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, where some concerns were raised about the cars' viability in flash floods. In Coliseum Square, neighbors wondered whether the cars would be available for hurricane evacuation. Others asked what happens when a driver gets a traffic ticket or parks the car in a pay lot. Rufo said Car2Go pays all tickets immediately. Drivers are insured through the company and may be allowed a first ticket, but subsequent violations and private-lot parking costs are passed on to the driver, Rufo said.
Other new, technology-based car fleets have met strong opposition from the city's taxi industry, but Rufo said taxi companies do not usually oppose Car2Go. In other markets, 95 percent of Car2Go users are residents. Its competition is not with taxis, he said, but with traditional car dealers, as residents seek alternatives to owning a car themselves.
"It's not an alternative to getting a ride somewhere, for example, if you've been drinking," Rufo said.
Residents also wondered about the company's timeline. Once the parking agreement is made legal, Rufo said, Daimler can get the fleet into New Orleans within 60 days.
"They've got them ready to go," Rufo said. "It's just a matter of getting permission from the city."
— This story originally was reported by our newsgathering partner Uptown Messenger. To read more, visit www.uptownmessenger.com.