Three cities east of Seattle — Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland, Wash. — have teamed up in a tech-oriented economic development alliance known as the Innovation Triangle, and they are working to bring car-sharing to their respective towns.
The three cities have met with representatives from both BMW’s ReachNow service and car2go, which is owned by Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, about bringing their free-floating, car-sharing services to the triangle. Jesse Canedo, Bellevue’s economic development manager, told GeekWire that ReachNow CEO Steve Banfield reached out about bringing its service to the Eastside late last year, and the two sides met back in January. The cities are talking with car2go, as well, and plan to release a community survey to gauge demand for car-sharing next month.
ReachNow representatives said the company weighs several factors when looking at new markets, including: urban density, legislative environment for car-sharing permits, accessibility of public transit, and available on-and off-street parking. ReachNow also likes to work with transit agencies to get access to park-and-ride lots and transit centers so it can be part of the first and last mile of commute trips.
ReachNow noted that the company has never crossed municipal borders in the areas it serves, so an agreement with Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland would be a first.
“Currently, there are no multi-city car sharing permits, so for us to expand our free-floating car sharing service into multiple cities in close proximity, there will need to be some legislative work done to make that possible,” the company said. “We’re interested to see the results of their community survey to learn more about the appetite for ReachNow on the Eastside.”
Car2go did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Canedo stressed that efforts to bring car-sharing services to the Eastside are in the very early stages. If the survey finds significant demand from residents, then the cities could begin working with the car-share providers on things like parking regulations and other issues.
“Always with business, the first thing is to identify that there is demand among consumers, so after we identify that we will sit down with the service providers to identify what specific items we need to work on to make their pilot projects viable,” Canedo said.
Though Seattle gets a lot of the credit for the local tech boom, the Eastside is home to major players in e-commerce, gaming, aerospace and many other industries. Each city boasts its own impressive tech credentials.
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Redmond is of course home to Microsoft, one of the biggest companies in the world, and an employer of more than 45,000 people in the region. Bellevue just landed Amazon, and the city is home to headquarters for companies like T-Mobile, Valve and Paccar, as well as beachheads for Salesforce, HTC, Alibaba and many others. Kirkland is no slouch either, as Google has a large presence there, as does Tableau Software.
The three cities have a lot in common, Canedo said, with many people living in one city, and working or sending their kids to school in another. The city governments figured that rather than compete against each other, they would be better off joining up to help attract companies from not just other parts of the region, but the entire world, and develop new amenities for residents.
“It’s one large community despite the fact that we are split across three different municipalities,” Canedo said. “When we look at what’s happening with companies … that share offices across those communities, it really makes sense to approach economic development from a common perspective and a common goal set.”
And car-sharing is a part of that. Bellevue and Redmond already have ZipCar, which allows users to pick up and drop off cars at designated points. Car2go and ReachNow are typically not restricted to specific lots and can be picked up and dropped off throughout town.
Car2go came to Seattle in 2012, and at the time, it was the ninth city in North America for the car-sharing company that is known for the blue and white branded Smart cars. It started with 338 cars in Seattle, and it has 750 cars here as of January. Seattle grew to become the company’s best U.S. market, so it’s no surprise Car2go is interested in adding more cities in the region. Car2go also recently began deploying a fleet of more upscale Mercedes-Benz models to complement its Smart cars.
ReachNow is a newer service; it put its North American headquarters in Seattle and launched locally a little more than a year ago. Its mix of BMW 3 Series, MINI Coopers, and all-electric BMW i3 cars have been a hit with customers. It took only nine months for the company to hit 40,000 members, and in that time it expanded service in Seattle and came to Portland and Brooklyn. There are now 700 ReachNow vehicles in Seattle, up from 370 at launch.