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Thursday, December 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Daily
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Car2go eyes Madison, but Wisconsin law is obstacle to car-sharing service
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Car2go is seeking to park its vehicles on Madison's streets indefinitely.
Credit:car2go

A new type of car-sharing service, car2go, wants to do business in Madison. But just like Uber and Lyft, car2go faces legal hurdles to operate here.

Car2go is a car-sharing service similar to Community Car and Zipcar, providing a fleet of vehicles for members to lease cars on an as-needed basis.

However, unlike the services already here, car2go is a point-to-point service, as the vehicles aren't tied to select parking locations. Community Car and Zipcar vehicles both have to be returned to designated parking lots or garages, making them impractical for one-way trips. Car2go vehicles can be left anywhere, with their locations found via a smart-phone app.

"You can literally find a car on your smart phone, drive the car anywhere you want, drop it off on the street or at a parking garage, and literally walk away," says Adrianne Andang, a spokesperson for the company. "You don't have to worry about returning the car."

Car2go operates in 27 cities worldwide, including 15 in North America, Andang says. It recently began operating in the Twin Cities. "We're continuing to grow and hoping to provide this service in Madison," says Andang.

But for the model to work, the company needs to be able to park its vehicles on Madison's streets indefinitely. That's illegal, by state law.

“From a statutory perspective, Wisconsin state statutes don't allow companies to reserve public spaces on a permanent basis to go beyond time restrictions," says Tom Woznick, parking operations manager for the Madison Parking Utility. "A vendor like car2go would need to lobby for a change to the state law to use street spaces."

However, Woznick says he's excited about the idea, because it could potentially free up lots of parking space.

"It can really reduce the amount of vehicles that need to be parked or kept," Woznick says. "We could envision many of these types of service models to affect transportation in the coming years."

It's another example of technology making new modes of transportation possible. Uber and Lyft use smart-phone apps to allow ordinary drivers to offer rides to anyone, for a price. The service has come under attack in Madison and other cities as being unlicensed taxis.

Woznick expects technology to bring other changes.

"We're excited about the potential [of car2go-type services], but first we have to be realistic," he says. "Right now we can't legally do what they want to do."

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