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Seattleites heading to and from the airport now have a new transportation option, thanks to BMW.

The carmaker on Wednesday will open a new parking lot adjacent to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Users can rent one of BMW’s 520 free-floating cars in the Seattle area — specifically, the “home area” — and drop them off at the Wally Park Premier Garage before taking a 5-minute complimentary shuttle ride to the terminal.

bmwseatac54When arriving at the airport, customers will be able to rent a vehicle from the Wally Park garage and drive into Seattle, too.

The new service is an extension of BMW’s ReachNow program, which lets people pick from a mix of BMW 328xi Series sedans, MINI Coopers, and the all-electric BMW i3 to get from Point A to Point B at any city parking spot within the “Home Area” that encompasses much of Seattle proper.

Now, for an added fee of $5, users will be able to rent a vehicle and drop it off in one of 30 spots at the airport parking lot. They’ll then wait for the Wally Park shuttle, which comes every five minutes during peak travel times and is marked with “Departures.”

When landing at Sea-Tac, they can catch the shuttle at the terminal — it will be marked with “Premier Garage” — and reserve a vehicle for the trip back into the “Home Area.”

If you’re leaving to the airport from, say, downtown Seattle, and your drive takes about 20 minutes, the average trip should cost you around $17 (not counting the one-time ReachNow membership fee of $39), based on ReachNow’s normal rates.

That’s cheaper than taking an Uber or Lyft, which generally run around $30, or slightly less if you use their carpooling services. Taking the light rail seems to be the most economic option, but using ReachNow offers more flexibility.

It was always the plan to offer the airport service since ReachNow launched this past April, said Steve Banfield, ReachNow CEO.

“We think it will be really popular,” he told GeekWire.

ReachNow CEO Steve Banfield.
ReachNow CEO Steve Banfield.

BMW approached the Port of Seattle about opening up a parking lot for car-sharing vehicles, but it wasn’t the right fit, Banfield said. That led to the deal with Wally Park’s Premier Garage, located just one mile south of the terminal at 18613 International Boulevard. BMW pays an undisclosed amount to Wally Park’s to rent the spots — it’s similar to how the company pays permit and per-vehicle fees to the City of Seattle.

The beauty of the service, Banfield said, is that it comes without parking costs, aside from the extra $5 fee and cost of the ride itself — $0.49 per minute; $1.00 “Shared Asset” Fee; $39 registration fee for new users (since launch, BMW has cut the per-minute rate to $0.41 and slashed the registration fee, but that promotion ends on Aug. 31).

“It doesn’t matter how long the car has been there — you never pay for parking,” he said. “There isn’t this idea of, ‘the car has been there for three days, so you pay for three days of parking.’ That’s not part of our model, and we eliminate all that hassle for the member.”

Through Labor Day, BMW also said it will offer a $5 credit to customers each time they use the new airport service, effectively subsidizing the $5 fee.

Here are some instructions, via BMW:

Ending a trip at WallyPark:
1. When you enter the garage at the gate, grab a ticket and leave it on the dashboard for the next member.
2. Look for signs and proceed to the ReachNow designated parking area on Level 2 – the ReachNow spots are clearly marked.
3. End your trip, grab your luggage, lock the vehicle and catch the WallyPark shuttle to your terminal on Level 1. WallyPark shuttles leave every 5 minutes and there are complimentary drinks and snacks in the lobby while you wait. Have a great trip.

Beginning a Trip at WallyPark:
1. Once you’ve landed at SeaTac and collected your luggage at baggage claim, reserve a vehicle via the App and follow the signs to the courtesy shuttle pick-up area.
2. Make sure to take the WallyPark Premier Garage shuttle, it picks up at islands 1 and 3 every 10 minutes. If you’ve been waiting too long, give them a call at (206) 455-9611 and let them know you are a ReachNow member ready for pick-up. When the shuttle arrives, let the driver know you are a ReachNow member.
3. Once you arrive at the WallyPark Premier Garage, head to Level 2 to the ReachNow area.
4. Start your trip and drive to the exit on Level 1. At the exit gate, hand the ticket (located on the dashboard) to the parking attendant who will open the gate for you, free of charge.

ReachNow vs. Car2go.
ReachNow vs. Car2go.

BMW offers a similar service to and from airports in cities like London and Munich, where it runs a ReachNow-like car-sharing program called DriveNow. The company also tested an airport lot while piloting ReachNow in San Francisco (the service ultimately left the Bay Area and had its official debut in Seattle).

This is yet another way for Seattle residents to get to and from the airport. BMW will compete directly with Zipcar, which opened airport parking spots for its new one-way service in June. BMW’s service is a bit different than Zipcar’s one-way program, given that you can park the BMW rental vehicles in any legal city parking spot — hence the “free floating” description.

Inside the i3.
Inside the i3.

Zipcar, on the other hand, lets customers return vehicles in dedicated and labeled parking spots that are a mix of both public and private spots, versus any street parking. This includes lots near gas stations, for example, in addition to on-street spaces.

Zipcar’s rates, which include insurance and gas — ReachNow also covers this — “start at $5 per half hour, but vary by city and day of the week,” according to the company’s website. That comes out to about $0.16 per minute.

New airport transportation options added at Sea-Tac in the past year also include the new designated area for Uber, Lyft, and Wingz pick-ups.

ReachNow racked up more than 13,000 members in its first month after debuting in Seattle. It is expanding to Portland in the near future.

In addition to the airport lot, there are plans to launch a number of other ReachNow-related services, including a concierge option where BMW brings you a vehicle, instead of you having to find one yourself; an Uber and Lyft competitor that will allow people to earn revenue by driving other users around in ReachNow cars; or a way for BMW owners to lease their own cars within the ReachNow network.

ReachNow has its North American operations based in Seattle. It will launch in two additional cities this year, with plans to eventually service 10 North American metros.

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