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Updated Monday, December 3, 2012 at 07:46 PM

Rent-by-minute car-sharing program in Seattle gets green light

By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council Monday unanimously approved a new car-sharing program that will allow people to rent by the minute, take one-way trips and park for free at city meters.

City leaders said they hoped the service, Car2Go, will give residents who don't want to own a car, or who might consider getting rid of one, another option for getting around town.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how this works in Seattle during the one-year pilot phase," said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who sponsored the legislation.

The authorization requires the city Department of Transportation to report back on the program after six months and one year.

Car2Go plans to host promotional events over the coming month to introduce Seattle residents to its service.

It already has shipped about 250 blue-and-white Smart Cars to Seattle in anticipation of its launch.

The company initially hoped to enter the Seattle market earlier this fall, but an October hearing of the City Council produced disagreement among members about the service area the company had proposed and questions about the use of city streets.

Car2Go initially planned to offer service between about 125th Street to the north and Interstate 90 to the south. But some members objected to the service not being available in Southeast Seattle, one of the city's most ethnically and economically diverse.

Car2Go agreed to extend its southern boundary to South Lander Street in Sodo and South McClellan Street to encompass the Mount Baker and Beacon Hill light-rail stations. It won't provide cars in West Seattle but will adjust its boundaries to meet demand, said company spokeswoman Katie Stafford.

Initially, Car2Go plans to offer free membership and minutes to attract new Seattle users, Stafford said. She said the usual fee will be $35 for a lifetime membership and 38 cents per minute.

There's no minimum trip length required, and the cars can be left in any legal parking spot within the service area. Available cars can be seen in real time with a smartphone app.

Membership covers gas, parking, maintenance and insurance. In cities with electric cars, it also covers recharging, Stafford said.

Car2Go operates in five American and two Canadian cities, including Vancouver, B.C. Currently, a membership here would be good only for American cities, but Stafford said the company plans to extend it to Canada and Europe.

Car2Go will pay the city $1,330 per car per year to cover administrative costs, on-street parking and a residential-parking zone permit. The company will be required to make up any additional parking fees it accrues above the permitted amount at the end of each year.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.


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