AUSTIN, TX - The City of Austin, along with car2go, Daimler's smart car-based car-share initiative, launched the nation's largest car-sharing pilot program Nov. 17 with the introduction of 200 smart car vehicles to the Austin area.

The six-month pilot program, which allows the City to test a car-sharing model as a supplement to its existing municipal fleet operations, is essentially a barter agreement in which car2go receives on-street parking spaces in exchange for City of Austin employees' use of car2go vehicles for City business purposes. There is no exchange of revenue.

In addition to the opportunities for financial savings and reduced environmental impacts, the pilot program is expected to serve as a catalyst for changing people's perceptions about car sharing.

"This pilot program gives us an opportunity to promote large-scale car sharing as an alternative to the one-person, one-car mind set," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

The City of Austin Transportation Department is working on the Austin Mobility Program - a plan for addressing the City's short- and long-term mobility challenges and building a sustainable transportation system. Car sharing is expected to play a small but significant part in the City's long-term transportation planning.

"We know there is no single answer to solving our complex transportation challenges, but by promoting large-scale car sharing, we can help address mobility and environmental challenges in and around our urban core," City Manager Marc Ott said.

Key elements of the car2go pilot program include:

No exchange of revenue. The agreement is essentially a barter agreement that exchanges on-street parking for car2go vehicles for City of Austin employees' usage of car2go vehicles for business purposes. The amount of value from the on-street parking is equivalent to $85,000 over a six-month period of time. Car2go will exchange the same amount of value or more in vehicle usage in the same time period. The $85,000 revenue was not included in the FY 2009-10 budget and will not be collected.

Number of vehicles and placement. At the start of the pilot, car2go will station 85 vehicles at different City office sites. However, City employees will be able to use any of the approximately 200 car2go vehicles that are available during the pilot. The City will also designate 20 on-street parking spaces for the exclusive use of car2go vehicles. Car2go will reimburse the City for the costs of marking those parking spaces.

Measures of program effectiveness to City of Austin. City staff will not be billed for City use of the vehicle. However, their driving routes, mileage and vehicle usage will be tracked and evaluated. This data will be used to help determine if there are opportunities for vehicle sharing in departments and within building complexes. In addition, the car2go vehicle emissions will be calculated to measure their environmental impact versus current City vehicles. City staff will also determine today's total cost for fleet acquisition, maintenance and operations costs to make comparisons with potential leasing costs with Daimler or any other provider. These comparisons will be limited to four-person sedans that could be replaced with two-person smart cars, if warranted.

Six-month length of pilot contract. The contract provides an option to renew another six months at the discretion of both parties.

Private use of car2go vehicles by city employees. City employees will have access to the car2go vehicles for personal use but charges incurred will be billed to their personal credit cards. Car2go technology inside the vehicle asks the driver up front if the travel is a business or personal trip.