Roughly six months after Car2Go expanded to St. Paul, the fan favorite car-sharing company is drastically scaling back service. For that brief window of time St. Paulites had the joy of grabbing and ditching those little egg-shaped cars almost anywhere in the city.
But under a new deal approved Wednesday by the City Council, those blue-and-white whips will soon only serve about 15 percent of the city.
“In my opinion that’s outrageous,” says Council Member Dan Bostrom, who voted against the agreement. “If a taxicab company came in and wanted to operate in the city of St. Paul and said ‘Oh by the way, we’re only going to serve 15 percent of the city in this particular geographic area, we’d laugh ‘em right out of the place.”
The new operating zone spans about 10 square miles stretching from Eustis Street to Shepard Road, and from Minnehaha to St. Clair avenues. Several neighborhoods, including Highland Park, Como, and the East Side are excluded.
According to the newly approved permit, the changes would take effect March 1, although Car2Go spokesman Bradley Ducey says a few details need to be ironed out. The company’s pitch for service shrinkage was triggered by cars being deserted in low-demand areas where they would sit idle for days. With only so many cars on the road (535 between Minneapolis and St. Paul), this means users in high-demand areas could see shortages and Car2Go isn’t cashing in on as many trips.
“The sustainability of our business is a piece of it for sure,” Ducey says. “But a lot of it comes down to the mobility patterns that we’re seeing.”
Ducey says the company is also discussing future reductions in Minneapolis, as well. While users can still drive outside of the “home area,” they can’t pick up or leave their cars there.
Since it’s not subsidized by the city, Car2Go user Ed Selser has no qualms with the car-share company trying to make a buck and pulling out of less dense neighborhoods. Though he lives in downtown Minneapolis, a Car2Go hot zone unlikely to be pared down, Selser says he will avoid taking Car2Go on St. Paul runs once the new boundaries kick in.
“The parking rules are confusing enough to now have a custom zone within the city that you always have to be aware of,” he wrote in a direct message.
Council Member Chris Tolbert, who voted against the deal, says Car2Go offered a “take it or leave it” deal — leave it and we’ll leave St. Paul. While Car2Go pays the city $600 a year for each car (largely for parking costs), Tolbert says it should serve a larger portion of the city if they’re parking on city streets. That or buy a lot and pay property taxes.
Dai Thao, the third council member voting against the proposal, also thinks St. Paul got a bunk deal. Thao, whose ward includes Frogtown and Summit-University, would have liked to see a larger service area in exchange for a smaller per-car fee.
“Otherwise you further marginalize people who need transportation,” he says.