It’s On: Chicago’s Car2go Pilot Launches Next Month

A Car2go vehicle. Photo: Stephen Rees
A Car2go vehicle. Photo: Stephen Rees

The Car2go point-to-point car-sharing pilot is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, July 25, despite previous setbacks that included pushback from aldermen who worried that the shared cars would make parking more difficult for private cars owners, and the elimination of most of the South Side from the coverage area. The test comes on the heels of our city’s dockless bike-share pilot, which started in early May on the Far South Side. The Car2go pilot wraps up in June 2019.

The Austin, Texas-based company plans to deploy 400 vehicles across the pilot zone, dubbed the Home Area. This 29-square-mile district includes most of the area bounded by Foster, Kimball/Homan, Cermak, and the lake, minus the 43rd and 44th wards on the Near North Side, and much of the territory near the Lake between the Loop and Cermak. Registration to become a Chicago Car2go member opened yesterday at www.Car2go.com/US/en/Chicago.

According to the rules of the pilot, customers can begin or end their trip at any legal on-street space within the Home Are, including residential permit areas, with no parking charge. They may also drive outside the pilot zone, but they must feed meters in other parts of the city, and they must end their trips within the Home Area.

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The Chicago Home Area.

“Chicago is a global leader in transportation innovation and this new pilot program will help us stay at the forefront while supporting our commitment to providing safe and reliable ways to get around Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing this program succeed and scale up to reach neighborhoods across Chicago.”

Although some aldermen opted out of the pilot out of fears of a backlash from constituents if the new cars get blamed for a parking crunch, research indicates that the availability of point-to-point car-sharing helps reduce car ownership. A 2016 UC Berkeley study of some 10,000 Car2go members found that each shared car took up to 11 private vehicles off the road. So groups like the Active Transportation Alliance have voiced support for trying the technology here to see if it can help reduce car ownership and vehicle miles traveled.

DePaul transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman also recently endorsed the pilot. “The introduction of Car2go in Chicago is an exciting moment in the evolution of our city’s transportation ecosystem, promoting lifestyles that no longer require private car ownership and providing new momentum to our expanding sharing economy,” he said in a statement.

Car2go members can view, reserve and access vehicles via the company’s app, which is available for iPhone and Android smartphone. Chicago residents can register for free by using the code CHI2018 and receive $15 in driving credit. The offer is valid through August 23, after which Car2go members pay a one-time $5 sign up cost, in addition to the cost of using a Car2go vehicle, either by the minute or via a Trip Package. Two-seater Smart cars rent for 29 cents a minute, and Mercedes CLA four-door coupes and Mercedes GLA SUVs cost 39 cents a minute.

Through December 31, Car2go is offering all U.S. members $15 in driving credit if they complete the National Safety Council’s online distracted driving course.

  • j84ustin

    Hoping this expands west. I would consider getting rid of my car if this was in my neighborhood.

  • David Henri

    Do you think this program will actually displace existing cars, or just add 400 additional cars the the streets?

  • Gene Parmesan

    I think it will at least displace cars from downtown parking lots and hopefully from street parking. Owning a car in the city is already miserable. Street parking for residents is already miserable. If their lifestyle makes it feasible, who wouldn’t prefer to just pick one of these rentals up when needed?

  • 神隠し

    Sounds like renting one of these will end up being cheaper than taking an Uber in a lot of cases.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    According to the 2016 study, a significant number of residents in cities with well-run point-to-point car-sharing systems said the service was a major factor in their decision to avoid or delay buying a car, or to get rid of one they own. On the other hand, because several aldermen didn’t believe this would happen and opted out of the pilot, which resulted in the gerrymandered, inconvenient Home Zone pictured above, their skepticism could be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  • duppie

    John, you mention both Foster and Devon as the northern border. Typo?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks, fixed.

  • Cameron Puetz

    Logically it should be cheaper than an Uber. With one of these you drive yourself, with an Uber you need to pay the driver.

  • Cameron Puetz

    Easily available car shares are often a factor in people who are car light deciding to go car free.

  • I use both Car2Go and Zipcar infrequently. Two observations: I use C2G more often, despite its higher price, perhaps because its cars show on Transit.app. Also, I’ve been contacted several times for surveys about my travel behavior by Car2Go, but never by Zipcar.

  • LazyReader

    Proof that cars are better than mass transit, they take private vehicles off the road, offer door to door convenience and if the vehicles are electric….no local air pollution.

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