A carsharing service many Portlanders relied on in lieu of owning a car of their own, has shut down. Free2Move, a company that began service in Portland in 2021, emailed customers Monday saying all their cars would be off the streets by November 30th.
Free2Move is one of four carsharing providers currently operating in Portland (the others are Getaround, Turo, and Zipcar); but it’s the only one that offers “free-floating” service where users can rent a car by-the-minute and return it anywhere within a designated area. When Free2Move launched in March 2021 they said 200 Jeep Renegades would be available in a market that has, “has consistently demonstrated its commitment to alternative mobility solutions.” In 2015 Portland was ranked 7th on a list of 70 U.S. cities for its plethora of non-driving mobility options.
BikePortland reader Craig Harlow, who doesn’t own a car of his own, was a dedicated customer. He used Free2Move cars for family trips to the Tacoma area and shuttling his kids around Portland. “Carsharing is what allowed me to sell my family vehicle so many years ago,” Harlow shared with us via email Monday. “That was the start of me bike commuting, which led to so much more.”
“Zipcar and Getaround each have their place,” Harlow added. “But neither satisfies the day-do-day, ad-hoc flexibility of a free-floating program.”
Even with Portland’s relatively large number of low-car and no-car residents like Harlow, Free2Move couldn’t survive. The company said the decision was made for two reasons: “rising infrastructure complexities in the US transportation sector which have resulted in much higher costs” and a lack of users to build up necessary revenue to pay for it.
Harlow certainly felt the lack of investment. He emailed BikePortland last week — before the company made the announcement to shut down — to share his frustrations with a lack of service from Free2Move. He said after a strong start, Free2Move wasn’t keeping up with maintenance and cars he used would often be dirty, have low tire pressure and not enough gas in the tank. Harlow would end up spending more time on the phone with customer service, than using the car itself.
It appears Free2Move suffered the same challenges as car2go, a popular carsharing service that left Portland in 2019 after five years of service.
The dwindling options for low-car and no-car Portlanders will likely lead more people to purchase and drive a car of their own.
Another reader emailed us to say “For me [getting a car of my own] is going to be the case. The presence of Free2Move made it much more practical to not own a car when public transit or bicycle isn’t a great option (e.g. day trips outside of the city)… there is a hole in transportation options now.”
Harlow echoed that sentiment. “If carsharing were to disappear entirely from Portland, I would regrettably go back to owning my own car, and to all the negative impacts that go along with that.”
And reader RM emailed to say Free2Move’s point-to-point service, “has been critical in filling the gaps in public transit and biking.” “I guess I’ll have to put that money into an e-bike and better/more rain gear,” he added.
On Monday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation told The Oregonian they’re open to other companies stepping in to fill the void, but for now, we’re left with one less carsharing option.