Out of nowhere, Car2toGo has gone from obscurity to ubiquity. The road show began in December and now they’re everywhere, 430 of these funky little Daimler-owned two seaters putt-putting over all the place for a rental price of 38 cents per minute or $14 an hour -- and what a screaming deal the company managed to get with the city of Seattle.
While you pay through the nose to park your car at these insidious meters -- many of which thrill to the sight of watching you age as you wait (and wait) for it to spit out the god damn ticket -- the city allows these cars to use any public parking space and for as long they want for practically nothing. The company, which began the car-sharing service in Germany in 2009, one that caters to short, one-directional, spontaneous trips, must think they’re playing a game of Monopoly and always landing on “Free Parking.”
Here’s the agreement the city council cut with Car2Go six months ago: The company pays the city $1,330 per car per year, and for that, each car has the right to unlimited parking (anywhere and everywhere) throughout the 52 square miles of traffic-infested Seattle -- home to 12,000 time-limited and metered parking spaces.
Nope, you’ll never see a parking ticket tucked beneath the windshield wipers of these blue and white babies, no siree.
So, here’s my question: Would you pay $111 a month to able to park anywhere you want and for as long as your heart’s content every day or the year? (That’s what $1,330 would get you.) Think about it, $111 a month for unbridled parking rights.
All this said, is the city getting screwed -- and are we?
Hard to say, says Mike Estey, manager of parking operations, since “we don’t yet know how much or for how long they are tying up meters. We’re studying that and we are waiting to get the data from the company in June.”
Under the agreement with the city, as Seattle Times technology columnist Brier Dudley recently wrote, “The company is required to provide an annual report detailing how much its cars used metered parking, based on GPS data, and pay more if they use more than $1,330 worth of metered parking. Still, the cars are exempt from some general parking restrictions -- city ordinance says they can use “time-limited parking spaces or stalls without regard to the posted time.”
Estey stressed that his department has received only a “few complaints” from residents (rightfully envious), wondering why a Car2Go has been taking up space for a day or more in a treasured parking spot.
Admittedly, it is difficult to quantify just how much parking ticket revenue the city is losing. But consider this: Sure, Car2Go is basically paying $1,330 for a year’s worth of free parking per car. But to park a car in a metered spot in downtown for a year would cost $10,000.
To which Estey argues, and with some justification, “That makes the assumption that the car stays downtown and doesn’t move around, which they do.”
And in all fairness, they really don’t take up much room, now do they?