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Alex Johnson gets ready to drive off in a car2go vehicle he found parked in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood on Wednesday. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The car talk on the street was one of surprise Wednesday as Share Now, operator of car2go, announced that it will be pulling out of North America and leaving Seattle without any of the free-floating car-sharing services that the city helped to pioneer.

With the prior departure of competitors ReachNow and LimePod, Seattle will be left without a car-sharing service that doesn’t require users to return the vehicles to a designated location. In a growing city that has become a hotbed for all sorts of companies to launch and innovate around countless tech-driven initiatives, users expressed disappointment that the transportation option wasn’t a lasting success.

Alex Johnson, a web designer at Tableau in the Fremont neighborhood, got the news in an email from Share Now on Wednesday morning. With a lunch date a 10-minute drive away, he walked a few blocks to find a car2go Mercedes.

“I thought it was a really valuable service. It allowed me to not have a car, which was great,” Johnson said, adding that he used car2go two or three times a month. “I’m kinda surprised it didn’t do better, frankly, especially with all the people moving here. It seems easier to just use this than to buy your own car. … I’m a little disappointed.”

Alex Johnson uses his smartphone to unlock a car2go in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

During what he called “the car-sharing boom,” Kobi Reiter signed up with car2go when it launched, using the “fuel-efficient-but-no-fun-to-drive Smart cars.” he also joined ReachNow at launch, but avoided LimePod because of a sign-up fee and because you couldn’t reserve the cars ahead of time, which made heading for one a “nerve-wracking choice.”

Reiter, a software engineer, and his husband, a high school teacher, went from being a two-car household to a one-car household. And that one car usually just sat in the driveway or was used for taking their kid to daycare.

“It’s a disappointing development for sure,” Reiter told GeekWire by email. “I had heavily incorporated car sharing into my life, including using it as a preferred mode of transport to and from the airport or anytime I needed to go to hard-to-park-in neighborhoods around the city.”

Reiter added that the family’s normal commute is by bus or company shuttle. But car sharing was convenient on days where their schedules weren’t perfectly aligned with other options.

“I suspect that this will increase our use of Lyft and Lime Bikes/Jump during the warmer months,” he said.

Car2go is ceasing operations in North America. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Down the street in Fremont from where Johnson drove off in his car2go, co-workers Matthew and Tyler were leaving lunch and headed back to the architecture firm where they work. They didn’t want to share their last names, but both said they were semi-infrequent users of car sharing. Tyler used car2go a couple weeks ago while his vehicle was in the shop for an oil change.

“I also used it to go to Home Depot once,” he said, touching off a back and forth between the two about how people treated the semi-luxury Mercedes that were available to share. Matthew had been in one where friends strapped paddleboards to the top.

And while his wife used it more, and they’d used the service to get to and from the airport, Matthew was more opinionated about what people should be concerned with when it comes to getting around the city.

“I think people should vote for public transportation,” he said, adding what he thought of those who have lived in the city for years and didn’t have the foresight to fund and build proper public transit infrastructure before massive growth made it much more difficult.

(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Not everyone was disappointed at the prospect of the cars soon disappearing from the streets.

Another woman on the street walking past a black car2go Mercedes said that she didn’t use car sharing because she had her own vehicle and that she used public transportation a lot, including buses and light rail.

When asked about bike sharing, the woman said she hated them because they were always in the way on sidewalks. And then she was told that electric scooters are coming to town.

“Oh great,” she sighed.

Johnson, the Tableau worker, said he thinks it won’t be too long before another car-sharing service figures out what it takes to make a go of things in Seattle.

“I imagine something will take its place that’ll be equivalent because I think it was valuable enough,” Johnson said. “It seems to me that with a lot of the micro-mobility and continued urbanization of things it’s just sort of getting the right mix of it.”

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