Neighborhood awash in mini-cars
For a few weeks earlier this year it looked like some car-rental company had decided to dispose of its auto inventory onto the streets of Madison Park rather than buying a parking lot somewhere and behaving like a normal operator. The sudden hyper-abundance of those little blue-and-white vehicles was, of course, just part of the rental company's media hype---a more-subtle version of that well-known ploy used by certain truck-rental, hauling, and plumbing companies (the ones who strategically park trucks advertising their services on arterials where billboards would not be allowed).
To be fair, this car-rental concern does not advertise with "Rent Me for Only 38 Cents Per Minute!" plastered on the sides of its smart cars. That's probably not due to modesty or discretion, but rather a practical cost-related decision (what's the expense of repainting all the cars if the rates go up to 39 cents, for example?). But whether these cars are cluttering up our streets or are simply a wonderful new convenience available to Madison Parkers depends on your point of view. Some businesses in other neighborhoods apparently object to parking spaces being taken up by these vehicles (or so one media outlet has reported). No reports of that reaction here, although this is not the time of year when neighborhood parking is a problem. When the summer rolls around (if it does) things may be different.
A quick inventory of the neighborhood's thoroughfares last week led us to believe that the hype was over and that the six cars remaining in Madison Park (where there had been 12-15 at the get go) meant that the car company had moved on. In the previous weeks the company's young "car jockeys" had been moving a large number of vehicles around the neighborhood just to get greater exposure for the service. Apparently, however, that is still happening. There were an even dozen of the vehicles on the streets of Madison Park this afternoon.
Of course these could all be cars that have been legitimately rented and then returned to the streets by their satisfied users. Or not. It is interesting to note that neighboring Madrona has only three of the vehicles on its streets, while Denny Blaine has only two and Leschi and Laurelhurst have none.
But perhaps we haven't been targeted. Maybe Madison Parkers are just big on curbside car renting.
[We hate to become complicit in the rental company's marketing efforts, but in case any reader is interested in a dissection of this new service and how it compares to a different one, we provide this helpful link to the Seattle Transit Blog. The company, by the way, pays the City of Seattle for the right to park on residential streets, or so it has been reliably reported.]