Car share poised to go big in Minneapolis

Car share is a way for people to lead more sustainable and affordable lives — and we are moving closer to making it much more possible for more people to do so, right here in Minneapolis.

Why car share?

Much like bike share, car share can provide an on-demand service, meaning that people only use a car when they need it. Car share provides all the convenience of having a car with none of the hassle of owning one, like parking, maintenance and all the other costs involved.

There are many reasons that car share is an important public amenity to have and to grow in a vibrant, diverse city.

First, it allows people who can’t afford to own a car to be able to use a car when they need it.

Second, it allows people to downsize the number of cars they may own from two to one, or even from one to none. In cities that have extensive, successful car share systems, it has been demonstrated to do just that.

In both cases, car share allows people and families to put their money to uses other than owning cars: toward their homes, their daily expenses, their children’s education or any other priority that people may feel is more valuable and important to them than owning a car.

Third, car share allows all of us to live in a greener, healthier and more sustainable city with a greater variety of options for getting around.

Dramatically growing car share in Minneapolis

Right now, there are two private, subscription-based providers that operate car share in Minneapolis.  Between them, they make a total of 33 cars available to their subscribers in our city.

But the demand for car share is far greater than that, and car share has not been growing fast enough in Minneapolis to meet it. In addition, there are many neighborhoods that car share still does not serve. To my way of thinking, that’s not good enough, which is why for the past two years, I have been advocating that the City think creatively about how we encourage car share to expand dramatically.

Earlier this year, the City’s Department of Public Works put out a request for proposals to implement a citywide car share program in Minneapolis, on a two-year, pilot-project basis.

The proposal process was open, data-driven and competitive. After a selection committee reviewed all four proposals received, including from the two companies who currently operate car share in Minneapolis, they recommended that the City select Car2Go to be the City’s partner in implementing this system.

Car2Go proposed a dramatic expansion of car share in Minneapolis, with 250 new SmartCars. Moreover, they are proposing a unique delivery model whereby most cars will not be tied to specific parking spots, but instead can be picked up and dropped off at any legal on-street parking space.

Other  reasons that the selection committee cited for recommending Car2Go are:

  • No monthly fees, a low cost to join, and best value for short trips around the city.
  • A large number of cars available at curbside, not just in off-street spaces.
  • Cars constantly redistributed across the city to meet demand, like bike share.
  • Memberships available to those 18 and up, which opens up service to young people.

No change for car share companies already operating in Minneapolis

Here I want to be completely clear: the selection committee’s recommendation to move forward with Car2Go as our partner on the two-year pilot project — which the City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee has accepted and has forwarded to the full City Council — does not in any way choose who gets to provide car share service in Minneapolis. The companies that are currently in Minneapolis’ car share market can stay in Minneapolis’ car share market and continue to operate as they currently do. No action that the City has taken changes that, and in fact, these companies have signaled their intention to stay and expand in Minneapolis. This is good news, because our goal is ultimately to serve every neighborhood and community in Minneapolis.

Stay tuned

There are more steps to come in this process, so stay tuned as we move forward with dramatically expanding car share in Minneapolis, which will make living in our city more affordable and more sustainable.