A Quick Trip on Wednesday Morning
Iric Nathanson, Becketwood Member
On a Wednesday morning in July, my friend Rose decided that she needed a quick way to get to work. Usually, she bikes the three miles from her South Minneapolis bungalow to her office on Chicago Avenue. That day she was leaving the bike at home. Rose could have used a Metro Transit bus to get to the office, but that would have meant a transfer, travel time of more than a half hour and a $2.25 bus fare.
Rose, who is 29, had another option. Using an app on her smart phone, she located a car parked on a nearby street that she could use to make the three-mile trip. A short walk led her to the small vehicle with the distinctive blue and white markings. Eight minutes later, she pulled into a parking space in front of her office and left the car there.
With the normal use fee for the tiny two-seater ticking away at 38 cents a minute, Rose should have paid $3.04 for the eight-minute drive. That morning, Rose got a free ride because she had just received 10 free minutes through a promotion offered by Car2go, the firm that provides a car sharing service in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Even if she had been charged the full rate, Car2go would have cost Rose only slightly more than the Metro Transit bus fare. By using car sharing, she was able to get to work on her own schedule without being locked into the bus system’s timetable.
Car2go is one of a series of new enterprises springing up all over the world that use the latest communications technology to deliver decentralized consumer services. The car-sharing firm now operating here in Minnesota joins other newcomers like Uber and Lyft that link passengers with drivers who use their own cars to transport their customers. This direct linkage between consumers and providers is the hallmark of the widely popular Airbnb that lets people rent out lodging space in their own homes.
Entrepreneurial upstarts like Car2go, Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are upending traditional business models that rely on massive corporations to deliver standardized services. They are part of what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls the “sharing economy.” The upstarts are succeeding, Friedman maintains, because they understand the ways in which technology is making the world hyper connected.
We seniors are often bewildered and even a little frightened by these technological innovations that we see occurring all around us. We tend to rail at each other about all the new-fangled devices that are complicating our lives and those pesky apps (short for applications) that seem to preoccupy our children and our grandchildren.
We may not fully embrace the fast -changing technologies that seem to be enveloping us, but we need to accept those applications, like car sharing, that can improve the way we live.
That tiny two-seater with its smart phone app got Rose to where she wanted to go in eight minutes. Who knows? One of these days it might find a place right here at Becketwood.