Aside from the trend of the Nice Ride, a popular bike-sharing program, car-sharing businesses also bloom in the Twin Cities, like many others. Car-sharing is the practice of using one or more cars with other people. The practice is convenient for people who do not own cars and only need a ride for special occasions or short trips. This business model ultimately helps individuals save money and lessen their carbon footprint. The system appeals to many urbanites and young millennials who support public transportation and value the ideals of green living.
The Twin Cities, being a favorable location that greatly promotes green transportation with initiatives such as the Metro Transit Blue and Green lines as well as the Nice Ride, has five unique car-sharing services available for busy Minnesotans—Car2Go, Zipcar, Hourcar, REVL, Enterprise CarShare. With five programs serving the area, market manager of Zipcar Minneapolis, Brian Harvey, states that “the Twin Cities is somewhat unique” since the average number totals to only one or two car-sharing businesses in many U.S. cities. As the Twin Cities continues to grow and proves demand for car-sharing services, one would only expect these companies to expand their businesses to accommodate the change. However, Car2Go, one of the most popular companies, is working on a proposal to scale back on their service in the Twin Cities - by more than half according to Minnesota Public Radio News.
Owned by Daimler AG, the German manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz, Car2Go’s signature blue and white compact smart cars scatter across the metro area. Today, Car2Go has more than 25,000 members and about 500 cars in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Partnering with the two cities, the company has a contract that allows them to occupy 107 square miles, making the Twin Cities metro area the largest Car2Go Home Area in North America. If Car2Go’s decision of scaling down to 50 square miles comes into effect in the near future, the reduction could impact more than 22,000 people. This change comes as a result of annual reports that displayed locations within the Twin Cities with the high demands for the blue and white smart cars. The company spokesman, Brad Ducey, states that the decision for scaling back is purely “data driven” and that they are focusing on mobility streams—where the demand is highest.
To counter this argument, Council Member Blong Yang remarks that Car2Go only wants to “concentrate in the area that was making money for them.” He then expresses that the situation “seems unfair and inequitable” because the company would not extend their service to north of West Broadway in his North Side ward, which is known to be a low-income area. Similar to Car2Go, Nice Ride have also made the decision to focus on areas with high demands for bikes within the cities. Nonetheless, in contrast to Car2Go, Nice Ride has made arrangements to keep some bike stations in the North Side. This is partially possible because Nice Ride, unlike Car2Go, has funding from the federal government. Nice Ride Executive Director Bill Dossett, of the North Side, states that their decision to not completely scale back is due to the fact that “there’s been a history of disinvestment” in the North Minneapolis area. Hence, Nice Ride does not want to perpetuate this. Instead, they want to fight against disinvestment in poor neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, being a privately owned company, Car2Go does not receive taxpayer support in keeping their service in lower-demand areas. Moreover, it is fair to say that focusing on high demand areas is a straightforward reason to scale back. At the same time, pulling out their investment in low-income areas could greatly affect the growth of neighborhoods and the residents who rely on car-sharing services.
How will the scaling down of Car2Go transform the low-income community in the Twin Cities? Would you agree that this is a practice of disinvesting in poor neighborhoods or sound financial business practices? Have you experienced anything similar to this situation in your city? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Tam Nguyen. Data linked to sources.