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Car2Go – Urban Transportation in Austin Texas

Today I tried Car2Go for the first time, and despite a few glitches, I want more. More shared, one-way transport options. More cars. More uptake from the public and my local community.

Car2Go is one of two car-sharing schemes in Austin, the other being Austin CarShare. Of the two, Car2Go is less commitment – a $35 joining fee means you can borrow a car at a reasonable rate any time.

This evening, I got my Car2Go card in the mail, and despite the fact that we have two cars for two adults in our family, I thought I’d test the system, and pop along to HEB to get some supplies for our young son, Otto. My wife’s car is a little sick, and given the promise of me walking to work in Mueller Austin, I wanted to test the idea of a single car for our family, in addition to a Car2Go car.

Also, I wanted to ride in a Smart Car and see how fast it would go around a roundabout. Not exactly green? Well, maybe not, but if I’m going to be testing cars, they might as well be 60mpg+ ones.

The system is delightfully simple. You pull out your phone or laptop, figure out where the nearest available car is, optionally reserve it, and toddle over on foot. I think the system works well if you’re near a bunch of other people who use them to drive to their homes, which I am. Mueller is full of forward thinking early adopters, and this presumably means people will drive cars here and then park them here much of the time. I see a bunch as I’m out and about, and tonight was no exception.

I had to walk 300 meters to get to my target vehicle, then I held up the card, entered a pin, retrieved the key and the monstrous engine roared to life. Actually, the car was quite fun to drive – what little of it there was. It accelerated passably with it’s jerry-rigged automatic gear shifting, and took a few moments to get used to.

Off to HEB. I had to park and keep the car key (and continue to rent it) as when I parked, I wasn’t apparently in the Car2Go service area. I thought I was, but heck, it ensured that my ride would be there when I got out, allbeit at 35 cents per shopping minute. I don’t think of the annualized cost of running my current car, and think I’m wasting money when it’s sitting in the garage, so a mental adjustment needs to be made.

I got back, avoided getting a speeding ticket as I passed two police cars on Airport Boulevard, and parked outside my home. Perfect, I thought. There was a little glitch when the car’s GPS thought I was very far away from the service area, and I was connected immediately by phone to a man from Belfast working in Holland for Car2Go. He asked me if I was under and large trees. Clearly he isn’t familiar with Mueller. I said I’d park 300 meters away (where I picked up the car) to see if the GPS could pick me up. It did. I parked and walked home.

A slight pain in the butt to be honest, but easily overcome by my wild enthusiasm for the idea of holding up a small device to locate a vehicle, walking to it and letting myself in with a plastic card. Seriously, the idea blows my mind. I want it to work.

I want people not to game the system (I’ve already had fantasies about getting a flash mob to collect a bunch of Car2Go vehicles and go out on a photo scavenger hunt, but realize this isn’t in the spirit of things). I want there to be more community cars, and less personal cars. And I don’t want to have to buy a Smart Car. The next step is more of the same for electric cars. Or even electric cars within the neighborhood. Can’t wait.

Car2Go Austin at Mueller

Car2Go Austin at Mueller

Looking at my trip, I could have driven another 20 minutes for no additional cost (though that certainly would have been a waste of energy). And there’s no way I managed to get to HEB and back and around the roundabout a few times in 1.9 miles. Until we get a walkable neighborhood here, I’m going to look very seriously at going down to 1 car.

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Garreth Wilcock is an Austin EcoBroker® with Keller Williams Realty.

Specializing in: Green Austin Real Estate and New Green Homes in Austin.

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