Car-sharing options grow in Minneapolis

An HourCar near the Hamline University campus. (MPR photo/Jon Collins)

Minneapolis’ first car-sharing program launched in 2005 with just a dozen cars. There are now 145 cars available to share in Minneapolis, with hundreds more expected in the coming months thanks to a partnership between car-sharing companies and the city.

Four companies are vying for the car-sharing market in Minneapolis, three of which are partnering with the city to use more high-profile on-street parking spaces.

The city’s Ten Year Transportation Action Plan that was approved in 2009 recommends that Minneapolis support car-sharing programs because they in turn boost transit use, bicycling and walking. Residents are thought to be more likely to use alternative transit knowing that a vehicle is there just in case.

Table showing the number of vehicles available from car-sharing companies in Minneapolis, according to data received from the companies. (MPR/Jon Collins)

Minneapolis parking systems manager Atif Saeed said the 2-year pilot program to collaborate with car-sharing companies will bring in about $1,600 per vehicle every year. In all, the city expects to bring in more than half a million dollars in the first year of the partnerships to make up for lost revenue from parking meters.

“There’s been a general notion that having car sharing available on-street hopefully would promote the service a little bit better than limited availability off-street,” Saeed said. “More exposure, more usage; we’re hoping that will be the case.”

By next year, there should be more than 400 car-sharing vehicles available in the city.

Newcomer Car2Go, which is owned by Daimler, offers the most cars right now. Car2Go started depositing their low-emission Smart cars across the city last week. They now have 56 cars available on Minneapolis streets through a partnership with the city, with a total of 300 planned by Oct. 7.

While the three other car-sharing companies operating in Minneapolis keep cars at specific locations like parking spaces, Car2Go allows drivers to leave cars anywhere in Minneapolis when they’re done.

Zipcar, owned by Avis, currently has 30 vehicles available on Minneapolis streets, with 17 more destined for on-street parking spaces in partnership with the city.

Hourcar, a non-profit project of the Neighborhood Energy Connection, was the first car-sharing company in Minneapolis. The company has 59 cars up and running in the city, with six more planned that will be kept in on-street parking spaces.

Hourcar Program Manager Christopher Bineham said his company offers drivers different options than Car2Go.

“We know that even folks who may use Car2Go for a one way trip will also  have times where they’ll need more hauling capacity than those cars offer, or when they’re going outside Minneapolis… so will choose to use our car in those situations,” Bineham said.

The newest entrant into Minneapolis’ car sharing is Enterprise CarShare, owned by the rental company Enterprise, which will make eight vehicles available in downtown and Uptown next week, with plans to double that number by the end of the year. Enterprise is the only company not to have an agreement with the city to allow for some on-street parking at meters.