It takes Allison Fitzsimmons about 10 minutes just to drive down the eight floors of her condominium building’s parking garage.
That’s why three months ago she stopped using her own car to run errands near her home in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood. Instead, she takes a two-seat, white-and-blue Smart car, part of a car-sharing initiative offered by Car2go.
“It is just really convenient to take the elevator down and get in the Car2go,” said Fitzsimmons, 27.
She is part of a growing number of residents who are moving back to the city and are looking for flexibility when it comes to transportation.
“Miami is becoming much more urbanized and one of the issues we confront is transportation,” said Rolando Tapanes, director of planning and development of the Miami Parking Authority. “This is a great bridge as a way for people who wanted to live downtown but did not necessarily want to use public transportation.”
The Miami Parking Authority, created in 1955, is an agency charged by the city of Miami with managing residential and commercial parking, said Tapanes.
One year ago, Car2go and the Miami Parking Authority signed a contract to pilot the car-sharing program in Miami, allowing the company to park its vehicle on city streets.
Since then, about 16,000 people have signed up locally, said Harvey Younes, Car2go Miami location manager, at the program’s one-year celebration Thursday at the company’s offices, 2935 Biscayne Blvd.
Members include Miami residents like Fer Gonzalez, who runs his own graphic design agency.
“I work right here in Midtown so my commute is really small,” said the 35-year-old Gonzalez, who lives in Miami’s Upper East Side. “Sometimes I bike or skateboard to work, and if I don’t feel like doing that on the way back, I might use a Car2go.”
Another growing market share for Miami’s Car2go are snowbirds as well as regular city visitors like Elvie Cano.
“I come here for business every other month and usually stay in downtown,” said Cano, 44, of Los Angeles. “So instead of renting a car, this is much more practical for me.”
Indeed, Maria Napoles, president of Maria’s Enterprises of South Florida, represents visual artists who visit Miami for their exhibitions. As part of a marketing package for the artists, Napoles includes a Car2go membership.
“They spend less money, they don’t have the inconvenience of renting a car so it is very economical for the artists, besides from being cute,” she said.
Car2go first opened in 2008 in Germany, said the company’s North America spokeswoman Katie Stafford. Two years later, it opened its first North American branch in Austin, Texas, currently the continent’s headquarters.
“We really look at cities that are fast growing and that have a positive outlook to the future in terms of transportation,” she said, explaining what prompted the move to Miami.
Stafford added that while there are other car-sharing programs in U.S. cities, Car2go is unique in two ways: The Car2go Smart cars are the first vehicles to be built with a car-sharing technology on the assembly line, and drivers do not have to return the vehicles to their starting point.
All 240 vehicles currently in South Florida are equipped with a GPS that connects to a free phone application, allowing potential drivers to locate the nearest available car. The application, titled Car2go gmbh, tells members the location, tag, fuel level and cleanliness of the vehicle. Drivers can reserve an available car for as long as 30 minutes.
According to the company’s data, on average the Smart cars are used for 20- to 30-minute trips – and these shorter drives show that people are looking for the option of a one-way trip.
“A lot of times people are unnecessarily driving just to get back to their initial location,” said Stafford. “We really want this to be intentional driving. We want to help the city ease congestion.”
Miami’s Car2go program also has satellite locations in North Bay Village as well as at one parking garage in South Miami and two in Miami Beach. That means drivers can go to these municipalities and also end their trip there. Previously, a Car2go member could go to these locations but they had to return the vehicle back to the city of Miami.
Younes said the car-sharing program is part of a larger trend of transportation-sharing programs, such as DecoBike, or public transportation, such as Miami’s green-and-orange trolleys that now also service Wynwood and Midtown.
Added Stafford: "These were all products that were never around 5 to 10 years ago. And Car2go really fits into that puzzle of public transportation and bike-sharing programs. It gives people options.”