San Francisco loses one-way carsharing: DriveNow suspends US service

October 6, 2015

Citing city regulations that don’t allow flexible on-street parking for carsharing, BMW’s DriveNow carsharing program announced today that it would suspend service in San Francisco, its only US city, on November 2, 2015.

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Parking permit regulations necessary for one-way car sharing to successfully operate still do not exist. Until the current regulations are amended, we must suspend service in the San Francisco Bay Area. We fully expect to return once the city reforms its parking policies to allow for one-way car sharing. We will continue to work with the city of San Francisco toward achieving that goal.

DriveNow is a carsharing program run by BMW. Its distinctive features were that it allowed one-way rentals and it users could leave cars in on-street parking spaces in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco. The initial neighborhoods with on street parking were the Mission, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill, Noe Valley and the Haight.

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DriveNow also had locations around the Bay Area, including Oakland Airport, SFO Airport, Mountain View and San Jose. This enabled longer distance one way trips than other carsharing agencies supported. Zipcar and Citycarshare’s locations are limited to San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. It was convenient to be able to use transit in one direction and have the option for one-way carsharing in return, even for long distance trips such as the 50 miles between San Francisco and San Jose. I used it to drive to events in Mountain View where I knew I could get a ride back to San Francisco from a fellow attendee.

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Unlike cities such as Minneapolis and Portland that have Car2Go, San Francisco doesn’t allow carsharing to companies to use on-street parking spaces and be exempt from street sweeping restrictions. This meant that DriveNow needed to keep track of where its cars were parked, the parking restrictions on every block and send an employee to move them whenever a street sweeping event or parking restriction came up.

DriveNow also differentiated itself from CityCarshare and Zipcar by not requiring users to reserve the car for a specific block of time. Instead, a user could just drive any car and return it whenever they wanted while being billed just for the minutes that they used. DriveNow had a per minute rate as well as a daily rate for longer trips. This removed the time anxiety that some carshare users feel when they need to determine in advance long they will need a vehicle.

DriveNow claims that will start operations in a different American city with more carsharing friendly parking regulations.

While we are disappointed to be leaving the Bay Area, we are excited about new prospective cities who are welcoming car sharing in their communities and offering the parking permits necessary to operate one way flexible car sharing.

Cities that already support Car2Go may be a possiblity for DriveNow – including Austin, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and DC.