A streetcar named desire

I had my first experience of Streetcar today. And it was a genuinely pleasurable experience.

Here’s how it works. You pay a £150 one-off, fully refundable deposit, and in return you receive a smartcard, similar to an Oyster card. This allows you to access hundreds of cars located across London, for anywhere from 30 minutes to six months.

Before you need the car, you book a time and location, so I booked 12–6pm this afternoon to do a spot of shopping in Croydon. The charge is £4.95 per hour, and includes up to 30 miles’ petrol per day, or per session if your booking is less than a day. So a 30 minute booking will cost you £2.48, which includes 30 miles’ travel. (You’d have to do a constant 60 miles per hour throughout your half hour.) If you do more than the 30 miles per day, you’re charged at 19p per mile.

Insurance is included, with a £500 excess, or you can pay an annual fee of £95 to reduce your excess to zero.

When you get to the car, you show your smartcard to a sensor in the windscreen, and hey presto, the doors unlock. Enter your PIN into the radio, and the glovebox opens revealing the keys. And off you go.

My nearest car is just 0.21 miles’ walk away, but there are five car locations within half a mile, so it seems that coverage is pretty good. Well, in my area at least. There are almost 200 pick-up points across the whole of London.

When you’re done, you just park up again, and lock the car using the smartcard.

All cars are VW Golfs, 75% of which are manual, 25% automatic. All have MP3 connectors.

Great concept, one which I’ll be using again.


One Response to “A streetcar named desire”

  1. elise on February 24th, 2007 04:34

    bah, and you call yourself ‘European’! (actually, both confusingly and surprisingly, i’ve found many Brits don’t think they live in Europe, but i’ll save that for another rant…) surely that distance should be in kilometers, not miles!

    in SF, we had 3 such services: ZipCar, City CarShare, and FlexCar. i did ZipCar, as there was no insurance deposit, former employer paid the annual membership ($50), 125 free miles were included per day, and hourly rates started at $8.75. really made a difference in my life, as i could finally leave the city to do major shopping and errands. and, didn’t cost me an arm and a leg in parking & insurance every month. if only more things in life worked like this…

Leave a Reply