Daimler Praises Brooklyn Car2go Customers at Detroit Auto Show
By Benjamin Preston
Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn got a shout-out last week from Daimler, the company that makes Smart cars, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The company’s Car2go car-sharing program opened a Brooklyn branch in October, adding a fleet of 400 Smart Fortwo city cars to its worldwide tally of more than 12,500 cars spread across several dozen cities.
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler, said at a press event held the day before the show that in its first four weeks, Brooklyn’s Car2go service had signed up more than 13,000 new users. That number had bounded past the 22,000 mark by mid-January.
“It’s cool because New York likes to be first in everything,” Zetsche said.
The relatively new car-sharing service — which started in Ulm, Germany, in 2008 and landed in North America in 2010 — works like Citi Bike, but with a small blue-and-white microcar in place of the now-familiar clunky bicycles. The tiny cars and the system within which they’re available are meant to be convenient enough for most people not to care much what the vehicles look like.
Car2go cars are available in the western third of Brooklyn — the area stretches from Greenpoint to Coney Island, with Ocean Parkway forming a rough eastern boundary on the borough’s southern end. Park Slope, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East Williamsburg are also included.
Users pay a one-time $35 registration fee, and then choose whether they want to pay by the 41-cent-per-minute fee, the $15-per-hour fee or the $85 day rate (plus tax). Available cars can be found and reserved through a smartphone app, and the cars can be left anywhere inside the operating zone as long as they’re parked legally. Car2go has deals with other U.S. cities that allow free parking in metered spots, but no such arrangement has been made with New York City’s transportation department — so no metered parking unless you plan to collect the car later.
The cars can be taken outside the area and parked for short periods of time, but can’t be left there unless the user plans to come back and claim the car again later. Customers are charged for the time, and are responsible for paying for parking.
Basically, Car2go is a way for non-car-owning Brooklynites to have easier access to the many areas of the city that aren’t near public transportation. The service can also be enjoyed by car-owning commuters and inner-city travelers who would like to get someplace quickly and ditch the car without worrying about it once they get there.
So far, Car2go seems to be successful in most places. Daimler said earlier this month that it had more than 1 million customers worldwide, and has already surpassed Zipcar, which claims about 850,000 customers and 10,000 cars around the globe.
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Early Brooklyn Car2go Users Have Mostly Positive Reviews
By Rob Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklynites who live in the western portion of the borough, from Greenpoint to Coney Island, have probably started to notice small, white and blue Smart cars invading their neighborhood. The vehicles belong to Car2go, a car-sharing company that recently opened a branch in Brooklyn, putting 400 of its cars in the streets since October.
This Brooklyn Daily Eaglereporter went to check out the system and found people —both in the street and online — who have used the service. For the most part, experienced users had positive reactions. Most use it for short trips within Brooklyn, but a few denizens without cars said it can be a great tool for getting out of town.
“Car2go is a great option for making quick trips around Brooklyn,” said Maya Ovrutsky, who lives in Greenpoint and uses the Smart cars to drive from Greenpoint to Williamsburg. “The technology is easy to use, and bedsides a few glitches, it has worked really well.”
Users have reported the cost being cheaper than that of a cab ride. “I signed up for it because it’s a cheaper option than taxis and gives you more control over your travel,” said Ovrutsky, who added that the service is helpful with parking. “The cars are easy to park and Car2go gives you good guidance on parking rules.” Ovrutsky said she has never had trouble unlocking a car or getting signed in to drive.
While not everyone is a fan of the Smart car itself, many said they have been happy with the ease of finding the cars. Some have complained about availability, but Car2go does employ a “street team” tasked to evenly distribute cars while also ensuring they’re gassed up and properly maintained.
The Car2go website and smartphone app are generally both easy to use and accurate, but some expressed frustration when their app crashed and left them unable to find or rent cars. “I wasn’t directly affected by it, but they sent out an apologetic email,” Ovrutsky said, noting that this wasn’t a recurring issue.
As Car2go’s initial launch only covers the western third of the borough, many Brooklynites have complained about lack of service in their area. But the company has said that it plans to expand if its service becomes popular — and with a focus on the outer boroughs, that doesn’t mean to Manhattan.
Brooklyn resident Sam Howe suggests that Car2go vehicles and other compact cars could play a crucial role in solving one of the worst problems in city traffic woes — the “discrepancy in sizes of vehicles fighting for spaces, for lanes and for survival.”
Howe proposes that it should be required for cars larger than a certain size to be garaged — which would “create the need for more garages in specially-planned zones throughout the city. The further proliferation of mini cars and Citi Bikes will allow car owners to move from these ‘parking garage zones’ to their residences,” Howe explains, adding that the city and state would invest in ensuring mini cars are the only non-commercial vehicles allowed to park on the streets, relieving overly congested streets.