AOL's Translogic recently visited Paris to test out the city's two vehicle sharing programs, and as host Bradley Hasemeyer explains, "It's a great thing."
The city's bike sharing system, Vélib', gives Parisians and visitors the ability to easily and economically navigate Paris without having to own a bike.
After entering your information at a kiosk or activating your Paris transportation smartcard, users can grab one of 20,000 bikes that are available at about 1,800 stations across the city. Hasemeyer admits that the ride isn't so smooth over the city's cobblestone streets, but the system is quite easy to use.
The New York Times noted in 2009 that the Vélib' program, which began in 2007, is not without issues. With 80 percent of the program's bikes stolen or damaged in the first two years, "several hundred people" were hired to repair bikes. The program's bikes have also become associated by some with the city's resented and "trendy urban middle class," and have attracted vandals.
Despite these issues, Paris has since introduced a automobile counterpart to Vélib', known as Autolib'. Launched in December 2011, Autolib' is an electric vehicle program that gives drivers mobility, without the need to own a car.
The program's vehicles -- which are available by the half-hour after paying a subscription fee -- are all-electric and designed by the Italian firm Pininfarina. But, as expected, the vehicle "doesn't really have the same Ferrari specs," Hasemeyer explains.
The program began with about 250 cars and plans to expand to about 3,000 cars within a year. By January 2012, some 6,000 people had signed up for the Autolib' program, but availability issues began to plague the system. As with Vélib', vandalism has become an issue, and breakdowns are also common. 30 or 40 of the initial 250 vehicles have been removed from service, according to AutoblogGreen.
Despite the program's simplicity, it attracted mixed opinions from the start.
A transportation official with the city of Paris told the Guardian last fall, "Private cars are expensive and people are using them less and less in cities. We're moving into another culture, the culture of car sharing. It's the same principle as Vélib': you use the car, leave it and that's it. Simple."
Others are less impressed. An "angry local" told the paper, "I've lived here for 30 years and nobody asked us if we wanted this. Is that what you call democracy?"
The Vélib' And Autolib' programs may have their initial shortcomings, and they do attract the ire of urban youth (who likely resent the urban professional class even without their matching bicycles), but there appears to be potential.
Hasemeyer sums up his feelings on the two programs near the end of the video:
It's a great thing. They're setting up an infrastructure, they're providing vehicles. This is really a great movement. This could be a great thing for Paris, and hopefully, if it takes, maybe it trickles into the States and we get some cool stuff like this over there too.