Opinion: car2go’s Exit Removes Critical Element of Transit
Car2go, the premiere ride-sharing service in our city, announced on May 24 that they are shutting down Columbus operations today. With 32,000 subscribers utilizing the service, some making it their primary mode of transportation — such as myself — this came unexpectedly to many in our city. Car2go continued to expand coverage and upgraded its entire fleet of vehicles in 2017, leading users to believe that the ride-sharing business was thriving.
Columbus Underground cited that one reason car2go gave for exiting the city was slow adoption. On the heels of Columbus receiving the Smart Cities grant, the departure of car2go should not be something overlooked by other innovative companies and the city alike.
Mike Stevens, the city’s chief innovation officer, said car2go would be missed but that they didn’t consider losing it a blow to the city’s efforts to encourage drivers to shift to other modes of transportation through its Smart Columbus initiative. This could not be further disconnected from the reality of progressive transit enthusiasts such as myself. Early adopters are key to the success of shifting a city’s transit culture. Car2go was that flagship program, existing well before Smart Columbus. It introduced people who live, work, and play in our city’s core to a flexible alternative to using their own cars that would otherwise be clogging up our freeways, parking lots, and Downtown streets.
As a person who prides herself on not being a car owner, this announcement with only seven days notice before services end, is devastating and will impact my adoption decisions with other private companies. I loved the need car2go fulfilled, but now I see more than ever why public mass transit is so critical. COTA, our public mass transit authority, would have never been allowed to make such radical changes that impact residents with just seven days notice.
If the city chooses to move forward in the future with public-private transit partnerships, it is critical that the residents they serve do not get overlooked. It’s known that innovative transit models may not be sustainable long-term, but the city should do more to ensure a gradual phase-out agreement is in place before the partnership is solidified, should a venture be found unsuccessful.
If the city and its partners want us as residents to shift our lifestyles, it also must understand that abruptly revoking services such as this one will create a significant adverse effect on the lifestyles we were encouraged to adopt. Our lifestyles are built around these modalities. Many of us who do not own cars are now scrambling to find down payments to re-purchase a car by today or find other cost and time-effective methods to make it to our places of work, pick up groceries, and other daily tasks.
Transportation is personal. It is the most basic way residents connect. Transit options must be dependable for effective adoption to take place. When an entire modality abruptly ends, it creates a missing thread in our city’s transit culture. It leaves users sideswiped and less willing to trust future private alternatives that can be pulled out from under us without advanced notice or a single public hearing.