Car-sharing service Car2Go plans to reduce its service area in Minneapolis, leaving the blue and white Smart cars largely unavailable on 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 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 department approval.
The company, owned by Smart car manufacturer Daimler, has operated in Minneapolis since 2013 and St. Paul since 2014. It has more than 25,000 members in the Twin Cities. Members in need of a car locate one by smartphone and, after they finish using it, can leave it at any legal on-street parking space in the service area.
Car2Go Twin Cities General Manager Josh Johnson said its intent is to focus service on areas where the cars get more use. They hope it will improve the availability of cars for members.
But the proposal to cut off most of the North Side — the most economically depressed area of the city — drew criticism in August from Council Member Blong Yang, who called it “unfair and inequitable.”
The plan “wasn’t based on low-income neighborhoods. It wasn’t based on the 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.”
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.
Yang said Friday that while he’s unhappy his constituents 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 proposed new Car2Go area ends at West Broadway in north Minneapolis, Lowry Avenue in northeast, 54th Street in south Minneapolis and west of Xerxes Avenue.
To view the proposed service areas for Minneapolis and St. Paul, visit tinyurl.com/Car2GoTC.