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Smart cars available for commuting on Ohio State’s campus

Car2go is a point-to-point car-sharing service that has 45 spots on OSU’s campus. Credit: Courtesy of Chester Ridenour

Car2go is a point-to-point car-sharing service that has 45 spots on OSU’s campus.
Credit: Courtesy of Chester Ridenour

A new car-sharing service on Ohio State’s campus is attempting to help make the best of the limited parking spaces available, though some say the vehicles are just taking up more space.

CampusParc, which manages and operates the parking facilities on Ohio State’s campus, has signed a renewable annual permit with car2go, a point-to-point car-sharing service, to expand car2go’s service beyond the city to 10 different locations on campus, starting Monday.

Although car2go won’t be the first car-sharing service to extend its program to campus, its point-to-point concept distinguishes the service from the other car-sharing programs, including Hertz 24/7.

“With some of the other services, you’re required to get the car from a particular spot, drive it to wherever you need to go, and you’re paying for the whole time while you’re driving, while you’re wherever you need to go, and then all the way back, and you’ll have to end the rental at the same spot,” said Nicholas Hill, location manager of car2go in Columbus.

With car2go, users pay for the time spent driving and are not required to end their rental at the same parking spot where they initially got the vehicle. Rather, they are allowed to park the rental car at “any legal parking spot,” avoiding some certain spots, as long as its within car2go’s home area, which reaches more than 30 square miles from Clintonville to Schiller Park, Hill said.

“On campus, since it’s all private parking, then yes, you’ll have to park in one of our 45 designated spots, but we feel like that’s a pretty good number so it shouldn’t be too hard,” Hill said.

Members submit an application online and then receive a member card in the mail, which can be held in front of a card reader on the windshield of the Smart cars to open the vehicle. The keys are kept inside so that users just have to enter some basic information before beginning their trip. When they’re finished, members place the keys back in the holder and follow the instructions on the screen before holding the card in front of the reader to lock the car.

By the end of this year, car2go aims to have 250 cars in Columbus so that ideally a person can be within five minutes of walking distance to a Smart car anywhere in car2go’s home area, Hill said.

“It really opens up the possibilities and becomes a true alternate form of transportation,” Hill said.

David Hoover, communications director of CampusParc, said the cars provide one solution to issue of having a limited parking spaces on campus, the car2go Smart Fortwo cars act as one of the solutions to the problem.

“We share with (car2go) an interest in advocating for drivers to ‘park once’ and not use their car to move from place to place while on campus,” Hoover said in an email. “In case someone must leave campus to attend a meeting downtown, for example, now they can do so without moving their car.”

Hill said the discussion between CampusParc and car2go to bring car2go’s service to campus has been going on for months, but representatives from CampusParc were unable to verify that.

Parking, gas, insurance, GPS navigation and vehicle maintenance are all included in the rates of $0.38 per minute, $13.99 per hour, and $72.99 per day. Registration costs $35.

According to Taxi Fare Finder, taxis in Columbus cost about $2.75 for the initial charge, then $0.45 for each two-ninths of a mile after that with an additional $0.45 charged for every minute of waiting time.

Grace Amberg, a first-year in film studies, registered with car2go last month and has since used car2go’s cars to run errands when the bus doesn’t seem like a desirable option. She said she was pleased to find out about car2go’s expansion to campus.

“Before, I had to park off-campus and it was never easy to find a spot because they have a specific zone where you’re not supposed to park in, and all of Ohio State is in it,” Amberg said. “It was a lot nicer to hear that they’re going to have parking spots on campus.”

Matthew Bauer, a third-year in construction systems management, said he feels similarly.

“I was actually really happy to see that because I have classes on West Campus, and they just put a whole bunch of parking spaces right outside the building that I go to a lot (Agricultural Engineering Building), so that’s extremely convenient,” Bauer said.

Although it’s only been a week since Bauer first signed up for car2go’s service, he said he’s been using the Smart cars frequently, and said he’s never had trouble finding a car near him.

“It’s like being your own cabbie but cheaper,” Bauer said.

Jocelyn Hach, a research associate in microbial infection and immunity, however, said car2go should confine its parking spaces to the West Campus area to avoid taking spots away from others.

“Parking has been really bad,” Hach said. “I don’t think they should be doing it on main campus because it’s hard enough for people to find parking here.”

Founded in Germany, in 2008, car2go’s pioneered its North America operation in Austin, Texas, in 2009, and officially launched in Columbus Oct. 26. Currently, the company has its services in six cities in the U.S.

“There are a lot of similarities between Columbus and Austin – big university, great town and lots of thriving young professionals,” Hill said. “Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve seen huge amounts of usership, and second vehicle ownership reduction, and I can say, without a doubt, that we’re beating everyone’s expectations for Columbus as far as usage goes.”

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