Ever since I was young, I have been a transit enthusiast. What can I say? I quickly grew fascinated with the Caltrain that whizzed by on the tracks just a few blocks from my house, and that interest quickly expanded to go planes and buses as well.
But now flash-forward to today, and I have gone a little more mainstream from being a transit enthusiast: now I’m also a commuter. A commuter living in a major city, with no car. And that makes transit just a little less glamorous for me than it used to be.
In terms of availability, the District of Columbia actually has a good array of public transit services: a very convenient rapid-transit rail service (Metro), and a very complete, integrated network of local bus routes, that easily trumps the public transit offerings back where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. But the reliability of Metro and Metrobus tends to leave a bit to be desired. And then there are some activities (grocery shopping, for example) that are outright a pain to deal with via public transit.
Fortunately, modern technology has enabled the growth of a new kind of transit option: car-sharing.
Car-sharing has become significantly more mainstream in recent years, providing a flexible, cost-effective option for drivers lacking their own wheels (or car owners looking to lighten the wear on their own vehicles a bit) to have access to short-term car rentals where and when they need them. In the District of Columbia, two car-sharing services are most prominent: Zipcar and Car2Go. Yet both companies take a very different approach to shaping the way drivers use their services.