Car2go brings car sharing service to Northwest, Near South Sides

CHICAGO — Ditch your vehicle for good? It’s one positive outcome car2go says it has seen for users around the world (and now in Chicago), who can take a shared car wherever they want to go, and then leave it behind.

After launching the service in 24 cities, car2go opened its membership up to Chicago residents last month. Now 400 of the company’s “floating cars” are rolling through parts of the city. Users can find one nearby using the app, reserve it for as much time as they want, and then park it any non-metered spot in the car2go “Home Area” when they’re done.

“We actually created the concept 10 years ago in Germany,” car2go’s Mike DeBonville said.  “Once you end your trip on any approved on-street or off-street parking space you end the trip there, and the vehicle is available for use by another member.”

The car2go service area, highlighted in blue (Image:car2go)

Roughly speaking, the service’s initial “Home Area” goes north to Foster Avenue, west to Homan Avenue, and south to Cermak Road. However, there are some areas excluded within those boundaries, including parts of Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, and Lake View on the North Side; Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and West Town on the West Side; and Pilsen, University Village, the South Loop on the South Side.

Car2go worked with the City of Chicago for around five years prior to opening in the city, including passing an ordinance in March that gives it access to residential permit parking, the company said. Its drivers can now park in any (non-metered) spot for free within the designated area.

Users can reserve an eco-friendly smart car or a fully-loaded Mercedes Benz. Reservations are sold in “packages” which dictate the amount of time and number of miles allowed, including $7 for the first 30 minutes in the smart car or $10 per half hour in the Mercedes. That covers insurance, gas, and parking costs.

The service is meant more for short trips than for cross-country journeys, and while parking in any public or permitted zone in the area is free, users are responsible to pay for any meters or tickets they may get along the way.

Debonville says it’s cheaper than ride-sharing because it eliminates price surges and tipping. It could also lead to less cars on the road in Chicago. According to a 2016 UC Berkeley transportation study of five car2go cities, each carshare vehicle removed seven to 11 vehicles from city roads, as people opted to sell their own cars or refrain from buying.