Car2Gone

Florence’s largest car-sharing leaves town

Alexandra Korey
January 8, 2020 - 10:10

That’s 300 fewer Smart cars on the streets of Florence: Share Now, the company that recently absorbed Car2Go, announced that as of February 29, 2020, it will no longer be providing free-flowing car sharing services in the Tuscan capital. In a letter sent to all Italian users, the move was justified by “demand for car sharing being below expectations”. Service will continue, for now, in Milan, Turin and Rome.

 

 

The decision doesn’t apply just to Florence: looking at the company’s bottom line after five years of operations, Florence is one of three European cities that was deemed unprofitable, alongside London and Brussels, each for different reasons. But that’s not all: they have pulled out of the entire North American market, citing, in an official statement, “the volatile state of the global mobility landscape, and rising infrastructure complexities.” Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft provide competition for car sharing in the US, but unfortunately are not available to Italian users.

 

 

Stefano Giorgetti, city councillor for mobility, voiced his displeasure at the move, telling The Florentine: “Meetings were held with the management of Share Now a few weeks before the announcement, in which they outlined problems with revenue . They said this was due to a short average length of voyage.” In summary, the city’s small size and traffic patterns made the average cost of a ride too low to be sustainable. Share Now did not advise the city administration of the decision to suspend service before announcing it.

 

 

 

How will this impact you?

 

 

Car2Go around Florence

 

 

Many Car2go users expressed their disappointment at the decision. TF reader C., who preferred not to be named, says she used the service daily: it was “reasonably priced and made work trips in centro possible with my camera equipment. It was one of the few things that ‘work well’ here. In a city where taxis are eye-wateringly overpriced, and I’ve experienced some really rude drivers, it gave me immense joy knowing that there were alternative transport options.” Bianca also found it helpful as she could “exaggerate a bit at the supermarket”, though “the parking part was definitely very irritating, because everywhere you go it’s always full.” Jos says that he’s “not a frequent user but I’ve enjoyed using their cars many times for short trips to the station or airport.”

 

 

Perhaps the city’s expat community is more open to the idea of car sharing or simply needs it more than native Florentines do: commenting on TF’s Facebook page, Federica believes the service was “not useful for Florentines; we walk or we use a motorbike.” On Mayor Dario Nardella’s Facebook post, Alessandra asserts “Florentines will never adapt to these mobility systems… Those who have chosen Florence as their adoptive city have a different mentality, seeing the city as a place that can be transformed and improved.”

 

 

Naysayers lament the high price by the minute, which adds up in traffic, trouble parking the cars downtown, and the lack of availability when you need them. Just try opening the Share Now app—or any car-sharing app for that matter—while downtown on a rainy day in Florence.

 

 

 

What about other mobility sharing options?

 

 

A Share’ngo vehicle near the Duomo

 

 

The white and blue cars were the largest car sharing operation in Florence and the option preferred by many of our readers, but three other services remain, with different fleets, prices and availability. With Share Now out of the picture, the number of free-flowing vehicles in the city has halved, which will certainly put a strain on the services that remain.

 

 

Share’ngo’s yellow electric two-seaters are rather silly-looking, and the greatest complaint is their lack of cleanliness and maintenance. The company reduced the initial supply of vehicles in Florence to 120 in February 2018, and also stopped the practical option of parking cars at the airport, citing the T2 tramline. If you can locate one when and where you need it, they are an economical alternative, with bulk packages and even a special rate for women at night (1 to 6 am). Adduma Car offers full-size electric cars at competitive prices as well as panel trucks, but only has a fleet of 100 vehicles in Florence, while Enjoy, owned by Eni, runs 100 red Fiat 500 vehicles in Florence with the highest per-minute rates of the competition. Finding one downtown is a mirage. Enjoy and Adduma permit non-EU licensed drivers to register for the service (in the case of Enjoy, currently this is limited to the US, Russia and the UK, and incurs an additional registration charge). Sharen’go accepts extra-EU licenses with an official translation (international driving permit).

 

 

Although no substitute for a car (no matter how small), bike sharing is available in Florence but has encountered plenty of difficulties. The service is limited to the orange Mobikes introduced in 2017; the green Gobee bikes lasted only two months in Florence before closing down all its Italian and European operations due to vandalism levels of 60 per cent. City administrators have announced that a public tender will be open soon for the provision of a new e-bike sharing service. Scooter-sharing, available in other Italian cities, is not present in Florence.

 

 

“Car sharing continues to be a priority for this administration,” asserts Giorgetti, “especially services that use electric vehicles. Being run by a private enterprise, we don’t offer economic assistance, but as the City we can create policies that make the service more appetizing through structural changes such as ZTL access and parking, themes brought up with the Share Now management.”

 

 

 

The bottom line

 

 

 

Mobike by Santa Maria Novella

 

 

 

While perceived by many as a public service, mobility sharing is provided by private companies and requires a sizeable investment in infrastructure and maintenance. It also needs a populace that is willing to adopt it as an alternative to ownership. A vicious circle arises when users who are on the fence about the service remain dissatisfied due to lack of vehicle availability, making it impossible for car sharing to grow as it should. Share-Now’s decision is simply a market-motivated one, but sadly it takes Florence a step back in the smart city race.

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