Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Car2Go paid D.C. $578,000 for its meter-proof parking agreement

May 9, 2012 - 09:34 AM
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(Photo: John Hendel)

How much is not paying parking tickets worth to you? One transportation company valued the virtue at more than half a million dollars.

When Car2Go, the international car-sharing company that touts 38-cent-a-minute, blue-and-white smartcars and bases its U.S. operations out of Austin, came to D.C. this spring with its fleet of 200 vehicles, one of the biggest selling points was that its members would not have to worry about most parking restrictions. Meters? Forget about 'em. Car2Go members only have to pay attention to more serious restrictions such as rush-hour zones and street sweeping, according to the deal that Car2Go hashed out with the D.C. Department of Transportation over the past six months. Katie Stafford, the Car2Go communications manager for North America, said the agreement covers "metered parking and the zone 9 residential parking permit."

The deal's final cost? $578,000 for the first year of the parking agreement.

Josh Moskowitz, DDOT's car-sharing project manager, confirmed the figure, first mentioned in a Discovery review of the service, and explained the timeline of how Car2Go secured the agreement. The car-sharing company initially had planned to expend quite a bit of its D.C. cash on a few of the government's 84 curbside parking spaces auctioned off last summer to three car-sharing companies (including longstanding District champion Zipcar and fellow newcomer Hertz On Demand) with astoundingly high sums in the neighborhood of $300,000 or more for all 84 spaces.

Car2Go "relinquished," Moskowitz explains to me, its 47 city curbside parking spaces on December 31, 2011 once the first quarter concluded, and DDOT and the company tried to work out an alternative agreement. Those negotiations continued for months and weren't finalized until the end of February when Car2Go announced its official plans to launch in the District a month later. The company likely paid far more for its agreement (a bit under $600,000) than it likely ever paid for the 47 curbside parking spaces. What a high price to ensure that members would never have to sweat parking tickets, no? Consider the math of what Car2Go paid D.C. for a second. Your standard ticket for an expired parking meter runs $25 in Washington, D.C. In paying $578,000, Car2Go paid off D.C. for the lost income of what would calculate into 23,120 expired-meter parking tickets. But the parking agreement remains a powerful and unique incentive for those considering car-sharing, even if the vehicles did receive a few mistaken tickets in initial weeks. Stafford calls the agreement a "key advantage" of Car2Go in D.C. and says members "absolutely love that they don't need to pay to park; and they absolutely love that they can essentially park anywhere." She wouldn't disclose any numbers about Car2Go membership but said it's "growing exponentially" so far.

And what happened to those 47 lost Car2Go spots? DDOT turned back to Zipcar and Hertz On Demand in early 2012 to see "about operating out of the spaces they would [have] won without Car2go's participation in the original bid," according to Moskowitz. The two other car-sharing companies happily took the spots. Hertz On Demand will soon go from having 23 of the District's 84 curbside parking spaces to 43, and Zipcar has received the other 27 for a new total of 43 curbside spaces. Zipcar had, until last year's bidding, possessed all 80+ parking spaces the District offered without competition and, until the last two years, without paying anything. 

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