Angelenos who don’t own their own cars now have another way to get around the city on four wheels. An electric car-share service called BlueLA has expanded with self-service kiosks in East Hollywood, Rampart Village, Pico-Union, and Downtown LA’s Fashion District.
Launched in June as a test program in Westlake, the service is now operating across a larger swath of Central Los Angeles, primarily in neighborhoods that are predominately lower income.
“Folks that need caregivers to come and go, folks who need to get to services, folks who need to do errands, folks who need to work second shift—these are the kinds of transportation needs that we want to fill with programs like BlueLA,” says Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the city’s transportation department.
The automotive industry is moving quickly toward electric, and while EVs are cheaper to fuel, the low-carbon technology still too expensive for many people. In Los Angeles, BlueLA aims to close the so-called green-divide.
By the end of 2018, it plans to operate 100 vehicles and 200 charging docks at 40 different locations across Los Angeles. It had planned a similar roll out by the end of last year. But for now, there are 25 vehicles, all available to rent 24/7.
So how does it work? All of the intel you need is below.
How do you pick up and drop off a BlueLA car?
The system operates very much like a bike share system, except with cars. To rent a car, tap a BlueLA or linked Metro TAP card to a charging station kiosk. The screen displays your account information and options to check out a vehicle, or reserve one for later use.
Returning the vehicles is similar to the check-out procedure. Park and plug the car back into the charging station, then tap your card to the kiosk.
Locating where to pick-up or drop-off the vehicles can be done on BlueLA’s website. Though only seven charging stations are open right now, more stations are slated to come online before the end of 2018.
How much does it cost?
Like other car-sharing services, BlueLA requires a monthly subscription. Information on how to sign-up can be found at BlueLA’s website.
A standard membership costs $5 monthly, and vehicle use is metered at 20 cents per minute, in addition to the membership fee. If you can demonstrate you live on a low income, the monthly fee drops to $1 monthly, and vehicle use to 15 cents per minute. (To qualify, you’ll have to submit documents to BlueLA, or show that you’re enrolled in other low-income programs.)
Walk-up service is also available for 40 cents per minute.
What’s it like to drive one?
The small cars handle with pep and are very responsive. Steering can be done with a light touch, and with electric motors, the cars are quick to accelerate.
All cars have satellite navigation, heating and air conditioning, and a stereo system.
All BlueLA vehicles also have a assistance call-button that connects the driver to one of the program’s customer service representatives (like On-Star) who can help answer questions about using the system, or where to park if all the charging stations at a return kiosk are full.
How far do they go?
On a full charge, the vehicles have a range of about 100 to 125 miles, depending on driving conditions.
Why is BlueLA here?
One of the biggest challenges for policymakers focused on the environment and sustainability is widespread access. Electric car rebates and solar panel subsidies only really help those have enough disposable income for a new car or new home power system
BlueLA is intended to work for those who don’t have those financial capabilities, but still need access to low-carbon technology.
“It’s a program that understands we are never reach our climate change goals unless everybody is participating, said Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-California), who represents much of central LA, at the BlueLA launch event. “We want to make sure that the people who are working class are not left behind.”
BlueLA is operated by French battery company Blue Solutions, which runs electric car- sharing in several European cities and Minneapolis. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is a partner; it kicked in a grant from the California Air Resources Board.
BlueLA launched just a few days after the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report on how LA can address equity as its transportation network evolves past the personal car.
Carter Rubin, a mobility and climate advocate with NRDC, says LA’s transportation network is unsatisfactory for a “huge chunk” of the population that’s fed up with congestion, bad air quality, and safety.
“It works especially poorly if you don’t have a car,” he says.