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Musical cars: Here’s how Car2Go’s fleet gets moved around all day, every day

The Brooklyn Paper
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Moving your car once a week for street cleaning seems like a breeze compared to this guy’s job.

The car company Daimler launched its car-share service Car2Go in Brooklyn back in October, allowing people to pick up a Smart car on the street, and unlike competitor Zipcar, drop it off in any on-street parking space in a designated area. But the constant motion of the two-seat cars, and the ever-present threat of alternate-side parking rules mean it takes a lot of work to keep the cars evenly distributed and out of the impound lot. We rode along with one of the workers who spends his days shuffling vehicles to avoid the street sweepers. He said the distinctive cars raise eyebrows and prompt a lot of questions.

“The first thing people ask when they see the car is, ‘What is this?’ ” said Angel Rivera, a Bushwick native who moves 50 or 60 cars each day. “The second thing they ask is ‘How much does it cost?’ ”

The service charges a one-time fee of $35, then charges per trip, by the minute, hour, or day, at rates of $0.41, $14.99, and $84.99 respectively. The company currently has a fleet of 400 rides parked alongside curbs from Williamsburg to Coney Island, and uses a crew of 40 to keep them gassed up and off of tow trucks. In the winter the hired hands have the added duty of shoveling the cars out of the snow.

Daimler first tried offering the service in Germany in 2009 and has since expanded to 60 cities worldwide, attracting 1 million members, according to a spokesman for the company. The Brooklyn system already has 15,000 members, and executives have had to add 150 cars to the fleet since launching, the spokesman said.

“It’s the fastest-growing market in North America,” said Tom McNeil, manager of the Brooklyn arm of the company.

To keep the wheels spinning, each day Rivera is given a list of cars that he needs to deal with, either by moving them to a nearby parking space, gassing them up, or driving them to another neighborhood that is short on cars. Our ride together included a trip to Cobble Hill, where one of the cars was low on fuel.

We rolled up to the car in need and a neighbor with a dog stopped to show us his Car2Go membership card.

“It’s super hard to find parking,” Olav Christensen said. “That’s why we’ve never owned a car here. This is a really clever solution.”

Daimler makes the Smart car, and Car2Go is a way for the manufacturer to profit from people who who need a set of wheels now and then, Asante said.

“We’re helping people that don’t have cars and don’t want cars. This is a way to open a new market of customers,” he said.

Registered members can pull up a map on their phone that shows where the available Car2Go vehicles are parked. A swipe of a card at a sensor on the cars’ windshields opens them up. Members can travel up to 150 miles in one session and keep the car for as many as four days. At the end of a trip, members can park in any space on the street in the coverage area, as long as street-cleaning restrictions do not go into effect for more than 24 hours on a street that is cleaned twice a week, or 12 hours on a street that is cleaned four times a week.

The service is more convenient when dropping off the car in less-congested areas, since on-street parking can be difficult to find in neighborhoods such as Downtown. Rivera said the car’s diminutive size does make things a little easier, but Asante said the company is looking into renting spaces in parking garages to ease the burden.

“We’re working on acquiring spaces all over the borough, but especially Downtown,” Asante said, after spending about 45 minutes circling The Brooklyn Paper’s MetroTech Center office hunting for a spot.

Car2Go found office space in Sunset Park’s Industry City, a location Asante said the company chose because of the influx of new businesses to the area.

“It’s a neighborhood that’s building up and changing,” he said. “Our coming here speaks to us wanting to be a part of that growth.”

Techno Files

John Dewey High School is hosting a robotics competition this weekend as part of the First Tech Challenge, run by the nation-wide youth science organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Teams from the school will compete against other area students to make robots that can play a game called Cascade Effect, which involves obstacles and moving around plastic balls.

• • •

Public Advocate Letitia James held a public hearing about the proposed merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast last week. A panel discussed how the merger could give the internet and television service provider a monopoly and unfair advantage in the city, and if the merger would increase the digital divide between poor and wealthy communities.

• • •

Just in time for the holidays, Ebay has added 80 Brooklyn businesses to its Ebay Local program this week. The stores will offer delivery and in-store pickup to shoppers on the site. The online auction house is running similar programs in four other cities in the United States, and three abroad.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

who says they can take our parking? from Brooklyn says:
While car2go appears to provide a unique and convenient service, remember what they taught us in school - "for every action, there is an equal or greater action".

In this case, it's a "greater reaction" when our public streets starved with available public parking, is being further compromised/consumed by car2go.

In actuality, this company is not carrying it's own weight by renting commercial land to store it's vehicles. Rather it's getting a free ride on the publics back, and then charging the public for a ride at the going rate of a rented car that would otherwise have pay rent for land.

Bottom line, car2go is taking the public's parking while creating unfair competition to rental companies that have to pay for land to exist.

car2go's vehicles are commercial vehicles and commercial vehicles are not allowed to park in public streets except for loading and unloading. And don't let them confuse you; when you rent a car, it's like it's yours to park in the street, however when car2go parks in the street, it's rented to know one - just using the city streets as free parking until they get a renter.

I call for enforcement to uphold the law. If I can't park my commercial vehicle in the street, neither can car2go.

Nice idea, but you have to think about everybody. That's why we have laws and that's why they have to be upheld - for everybody.
Dec. 18, 2014, 8:12 am
thomas from gpt says:
Good luck with enforcing the no-commercial parking on residential streets! Every night four spots on my street are vans that anyone can see are used for commercial use but have residential plates. The city does not care about commercial plates outside of manhattan and it does not care about out of state plates too. The city does not enforce the nighttime parking laws anymore except alternate side which only exists to pay the salaries of the asian cops who write the tickets.
Dec. 18, 2014, 10:04 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Smart car? -If only!

Drink more Smart Water - that works too.
Dec. 18, 2014, 10:10 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
A few things:

It is "an equal or opposite reaction"

The city and State does car about out of state licensed plates. For decades they have tried to do something about it. This is why the State was quick to approve the Mayor's "Zero Vision" plan. Both the State and Insurance companies lose tens of millions a year on NY drivers with out of state plates. An undisclosed part of the plan is how the city/State is recouping money from these drivers and forcing them to register in NY or prove why they are registered out of state but repeatedly receive tickets in NYC. Think about it like this, if you are registered out of state and get a ticket on a camera, the ticket may get mailed to out of state residence but how do you know you got a ticket? You know when you get a boot.

And as far as alternate side parking goes, it's a scam. I've never seen a street appear clean after the truck passes. Some areas have it 6 days a week, what a scam!
Dec. 18, 2014, 11:02 am
ty from pps says:
A few notes...

* The out-of-state registrations are a pet peeve of mine. I hope everyone knows that these folks are effectively UNINSURED. For anything beyond a minor fender bender, the insurance company will spend 8 minutes investigating and determine the "primary garage" is invalid and the policy is a fraud. I hope everyone with a car pays the extra "uninsured motorist" premium.

* This indigence by "Who says" about a company using on street parking for vehicles USED BY RESIDENTS is just stupid. These are not delivery trucks. These are vehicles used by RESIDENTS living on residential streets. Why do you think you have more right to FREE STORAGE than others?! The streets in the city are maintained through the general coffers... property taxes, city income taxes and sales tax. None of the money from your car's registration sticker pays for your residential street (a small portion of state highways, yes, but not your residential street). Why shouldn't fellow tax payers benefit from the free storage??!! Why should someone have to own a car to benefit. Someone's Car2Go membership seems like a very very efficient use of this free storage.

* Car2Go cars do NOT have commercial plates.

* My street regularly has car service vehicles and taxis parked overnight and during the day (when the driver is not working). Are you also calling for enforcement of these guys!? Another form of shared transportation used by RESIDENTS from residential streets.

* I think it's really amusing that you think 400 vehicles over 36-square miles is making your free storage of your private property oh-so-difficult. (private property storage, mind you, that is subsidized by millions of people that do not have the luxury of a private car)
Dec. 18, 2014, 12:23 pm
ty from pps says:
*indigence = indignance
Dec. 18, 2014, 12:25 pm
ty from pps says:
By the way, Who Says, if you don't think the 40 jobs plus the access to a vehicle for thousands and thousands of residents outweighs your whining.... well, you're just pathetic.
Dec. 18, 2014, 12:40 pm
who says they can take our parking? from Brooklyn says:
Distinction:

1) when car2go's are not On-Hire, they are serving no one but the company that owns them and are getting free parking on a public street.

2) Although registered private, which a company can do, they may not have not have company markings as such would require commercial plates.

So they are in violation of the law and as such enforcement is required.

And while I liked the idea at first and got registered with car2go, I realized the flaw in their method and recognize that we all have to obey that law. If they can break it, others can break it, it will be pandemonium!

Note that if a business registers a vehicle privately and it has no markings/advertisements, it may lawfully park in a public street. However, with car2go, this is not the case - clearly marked, clearly advertising, clearly breaking the law.

And yes, the millions of residents with cars using their street parking paid for by their taxes out way the 400, by several zeros!

So if anyone's worried about the few jobs car2go provides, those same guys can shuttle the cars off street to paid facilities where they made private deals (ie parking lots, gas stations, commercial establishments like Wholefoods, retail outlets with land/frontage, etc.). And then everybody will know where to find them.

; )
Dec. 18, 2014, 1:12 pm
ty from pps says:
Who says,
1) When you are not driving your car, I am paying for your free storage of your personal property and no one else gets to use your car.
2) Yes... pandemonium.
2b) So... 2 million cars or so and 8.5 million people paying various taxes, directly or indirectly, but your free private storage outweighs an additional transportation option.

yes... winky face.
Dec. 18, 2014, 2:23 pm
call the police from Cobble Hill says:
Well I have a car and don't want to loose my parking to those silly cars.

I agree, the street isn't any place to run a business and I can't imaging what it will be like if this catches on and 400 turns to 800 to 1600 to 3200 to 6400 to 128,000 to 256,000...

It really doesn't work when you think about it.

I think this slipped through the cracks an before the crack gets bigger we need to fix it.
Dec. 18, 2014, 11:12 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
As far as using a street to "run a business", all throughout NYC there are cars parked without license plates or registration with for sale signs. Some of these vehicles even park on the sidewalk. There are also repair businesses that take up driving lanes to run their business like on Rogers, Utica, Remsen, Ralph so the precedence has already been set...
Dec. 19, 2014, 8:18 am
Ted from Park Slope says:
I drive a BMW.
Dec. 19, 2014, 3:48 pm
ty from pps says:
Call the Cops -- I own a car and I'm also a taxpayer... this business is a MUCH MUCH more efficient use of the streets I pay for than either your car or my car.

Imagine if it caught on! (I hope you're being facetious.) If it caught on and the residents of the city chose to have 5,000 shared vehicles on the street instead of owning their own... you would have A LOT more space to store your car.
Dec. 20, 2014, 1:13 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
1) When you are not driving your car, I am paying for your free storage of your personal property and no one else gets to use your car.
2) Yes... pandemonium.
2b) So... 2 million cars or so and 8.5 million people paying various taxes, directly or indirectly, but your free private storage outweighs an additional transportation option.

yes... Thanks TY - I owe ya - :)inky face.
Dec. 21, 2014, 11:46 am

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