On a vote of 4 to 2, the St. Paul City Council approved Wednesday an 18-month agreement with Car2Go to allow the company to extend its service into the city. It already has more than 10,000 users in Minneapolis, where there are about 350 Smart cars on the streets.
Under the agreement, Car2Go will add 185 cars to its Twin Cities fleet and pay St. Paul $975 a year per vehicle, mostly to cover potential lost meter revenue and residential parking permits.
Most council members said they were satisfied that the city will be well served and that the relatively short length of the contract will force Car2Go to be responsive to concerns or issues as they arise.
“I don’t think passing this stops the conversation, and it would be different if we were doing a five-year contract,” Council President Kathy Lantry said.
However, Council Member Dan Bostrom said he was troubled that the agreement allows a private company to use the public right-of-way for profit, and wondered how much revenue the city might lose as a result. The cars can be dropped off at nearly any legal parking spot in the city, including metered spaces, without paying.
Josh Johnson, location manager for Car2Go, said that cars in Minneapolis rarely stay throughout the day at metered parking spots and that the company has enough users to ensure they’re moved regularly. He added that parking meter fees would be adjusted at the end of the year, based on actual usage – which means that either the city or the company would get a credit.
Council Member Dai Thao said that he liked the concept but wanted to delay the council’s vote for a month to get feedback from local district councils and business groups. His motion for a layover was defeated.
Car2Go’s model enables members, who pay a $35 fee for the service, to use a smartphone application to find cars and pick them up. They also pay about 46 cents per minute while driving. Ten U.S. cities have the service, including Seattle, Portland and Denver.
Other car-sharing services in the Twin Cities, such as Hourcar and Zipcar, require users to return the vehicle to the reserved spot where they picked it up.