Catch while Catch Can – car2go

Like many urban dwellers, I often rely on the service car2go for short trips around the city.  This is often helpful for hopping over for a quick happy hour, doctor’s appointment or meeting during the day.  It also provides a means for getting to the night meeting/workshop.  It’s a great augmentation of other modes of transportation where either timing or logistics don’t fit a bus ride.


In Seattle, I often heard about (or witnessed) a mad scramble around 4:30 to 5:00pm to lock in a car2go in the downtown core.  I never thought of it much until a few experiences trying to get a car within reasonable walking distance late in the day (i’m talking max 1/2 mile – 15 min walk tops).  The rub of course is you can only reserve the car for half an hour – so it becomes a ‘how early can you leave’ in order to ensure there’s a car available.   How long can you wait for that last car to be snatched up – and can you make it to the car in 30 minutes?  For something that supposed to make life easier, it can get a bit stressful.

I’ve looked at it periodically, but finally did a quick ‘snapshot’ of the available car drain – specially centered around my office in the north part of downtown.  I took snapshots of the cars in proximity to the downtown core – from late morning to early evening.  Starting around 4pm, there’s a significant dropoff in available cars, and they tend to stay away for the entire commuter time.  Few if any cars are heading from outside to into the core at this time.  I took the increments and made them into a looped gif – so you can see the dynamic.

I’m sure this is pretty common in other cities, but it’s an interesting phenomenon to these car sharing services.  I long to see the animation of the internal car2go data stream that shows 24/7 movements (do they share their data and has anyone animated that yet?) through major cites.  Someone please do this.

Obviously, some of these cars would return back downtown for the later night crowd, but it’s a sizable gap during the end of workday, and i’ve seen some days where the closest car is easily a half an hour from the office.  The takeaway, book early, be ready to walk, or take the bus.


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