Above: A Car2Go vehicle in Vancouver (Flikr/stephen_rees)
UPDATE: Car2Go says Minneapolis officials have approved their proposed new service area.
Car sharing service Car2Go plans to reduce their service area in Minneapolis, leaving the blue and white Smart cars largely unavailable in the North Side and near the city's southern border.
The proposed change follows a similar downsizing plan in St. Paul, but comes with a twist: The company said it will create several remote stations to help serve those areas outside the new limits. That hybrid model has not been used in other cities where Car2Go has reduced its service, the company said.
The proposed reduction to the company's service area (below) follows the City Council's vote Friday to officially license and regulate car sharing, which previously operated under a pilot program. That licensing means the service area and remote hubs will be subject to public works approval.
The company, owned by Smart car manufacturer Daimler, has operated in Minneapolis since 2013 and St. Paul since 2014. It currently has more than 25,000 members in the Twin Cities, who locate the cars on their smartphones and can then leave them at any legal on-street parking space in the service area.
Car2Go Twin Cities General Manager Josh Johnson said their intent is to focus service on higher-usage areas where the cars get more use. They hope it will improve the availability of cars to people using the service.
Above: Car2Go's map of its proposed service area change.
But the proposal to cut off most of the North Side -- the most economically depressed area of the city -- drew criticism this August from Council Member Blong Yang, who called it "unfair and inequitable.”
"It wasn't based on low-income neighborhoods. It wasn't based ont he demographics or anything like that," Johnson said. "It was solely based on member feedback and...studying our market for the past two and a half years. The evaluation is strictly based on that. It's critical to continue to grow here and [make] our business sustainable."
Johnson said cars parked outside the proposed service area sat unused 74 percent longer than the rest of the fleet.
"By proposing these changes, we believe that this is going to help ensure the vehicles are in constant circulation," Johnson said. "That we can make sure that we're not taking up space in some of those areas where we saw the lower utilization."
Yang said Friday that while he's unhappy about his constituents who will lose service, the remote stations are a step in the right direction. “It’s making it a little bit more accessible than it would normally have been if they just were allowed to … cherry pick," Yang said.
The location of the remote hubs has yet to be determined, though Johnson expects there will be three on both the north and south sides -- likely on-street parking spots. The new area cuts off at West Broadway in north Minneapolis, Lowry Avenue in Northeast, 54th Street in south Minneapolis and west of Xerxes Ave.
Nice Ride, the city's bike share operation, has dealt with similar problems with servicing lower-ridership areas. The company, which receives federal subsidies for capital costs, has built several stations on the North Side.
Below: Car2Go's new service area in St. Paul, which takes effect on March 1.