By John Hood
Add alternative means of travel to the list of ways Miami is setting trends in this wild world of ours. No, we don’t mean the County’s just-opened train-to-the-plane (as welcome as it is); nor are we talkin’ ‘bout Critical Mass (as increasingly popular as that is), or even Deco Bikes (ditto). Rather we mean Car2Go, that keen cool on demand auto service that officially launched over the weekend.
The Smart Car-driven concept company made its American debut in Austin nearly two years ago. But it’s with its second wave that the forward-looking company looks to really cement a place on our nation’s streets. In addition to the MIA, C2G chose Portland, San Diego and Washington DC as de facto guinea pig cities, and while those other towns may, respectively, boast indie cred, good surf and power politics, not one of ‘em can claim to be quite the polyglot that we are.
If that sounds like so much bragging just take a look at C2G’s initial service area, which stretches from The Gables to the Upper East Side, and includes Brickell and DWNTWN, as well as both Little Haiti and Little Havana. There you’ll see a teaming melting pot of old history, high finance, world class art, mind-expanding architecture, and fine dining, not to mention robust enclaves from every other country in the Western Hemisphere.
You’ll also see, conveniently peppering said stretch from one good end to the other, the wee vehicles streeted by Car2Go, who’ve shown a commitment this city hasn’t experienced since the building boom of the early ‘00s.
As C2G’s Communications Manager Katie Stafford explained to me in NBC Miami, the company’s decision to use the MIA to introduce the concept was equal parts hip and pragmatic.
“[Miami’s] a really vibrant and exciting city,” she said, “and there’s a constant influx of new people moving in. It’s also densely populated, and there is a bit of roadway congestion.”
Capitalizing on our hipness to address a mounting concern takes more than a certain hubris — it also takes vision. And that’s something Smart Car has had from the get. According to long-time company man Helmuth Ritzer, who serves as C2G’s CTO, it’s part of a far-sighted conglom, one whose vision only begins with its on demand Smart Car; and whose end is nowhere in sight.
Ritzer, who makes his home in Stuttgart, where Daimler has its headquarters, lobbied to get in on the action “the first minute” he heard about it. He’s been overseeing that action ever since. That the high-ranking auto exec chose to fly into Miami for C2G’s launch party weekend only proves how dedicated he is to the concept — and to how the concept gets realized. If the de facto block party they threw at Wynwood Walls (and its adjacent Wynwood Kitchen and Bar) is any indication, Ritzer, and the rest of the C2G clan, also seem adamant that the notion gets the proper reception.
Of course it’ll take more than DJs, swag, balloons and free food to convince Miamians to give up their cherished vehicles, but Car2Go is undoubtedly in it to win it — in Wynwood and beyond. New members need only enter the promo code “heat” and the registration fee gets waved; from there it’s a mere 38 cents a minute between you and your destination. There’s no charge for gas or for parking, and none of those unsightly monthly payments the driving public has become too accustomed to. In other words, it’s a cinch.
“Car2Go is the most convenient public transportation for people driving cars,” says Ritzer, nicely summing up the plus of it all. Now let’s see how quickly the people driving cars realize the convenience.