Friday, December 19, 2008

Alternative public transit: Car-sharing

I had never heard of car-sharing programs until I recently came across an article in the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Chronicle-Herald. The idea, basically, is communal shared ownership of a number of cars coordinated by a managing body. Members make an annual payment plus an hourly rate when they use the car (in Halifax's CarShareHFX program, it is $250 annually, plus $10/hour for peak times or $3/hour for down-times. The fees are all-inclusive, covering fuel, insurance, and maintenance, and are charged directly to a credit card. According to the article, it's a successful system in some cities:
"The effect on congestion, parking and emissions can be spectacular. CommunAuto, Montreal’s car-share service — the first one in North America — reckons that 250 cars in its fleet take 3,500 cars off the road.

"In fact, car-sharing has become so mainstream that green property developers in cities like Ottawa are including car-share memberships in the amenities of their condos, and providing space for car-share vehicles to park right inside the building. Some foresee a day when the developer’s obligation to provide parking will be sharply reduced for buildings that incorporate car-sharing in their design."
According to the Wikipedia page on the phenomenon, there are more than six hundred cities globally that have some form of car-sharing program, including Ottawa's Vrtucar program. According to Vrtucar's official website, "You have 24-hour access to a fleet of cars stationed conveniently in Ottawa neighbourhoods." There are several different pricing plans for people with different needs, so check out the website if you've got any interest.

And if you're a reader from outside the Ottawa area, or you're travelling somewhere else, you can see a listing of cities with available car-sharing programs at For many people, the arrangement would be both cheaper than owning a car, less difficult, and better for the environment. And it offers another possibility for transportation, especially as the city's transit strike continues to drag on.

1 comment:

david said...

We've used VRTUcar for a few years now, as an alternative to owning a second car in our family. There are several stations within a few minutes' walk of our house in the West Wellington area.

Car sharing works extremely well for running errands, etc., but it's not a good alternative to public transit for getting to work — one car just ends up sitting idle in someone's parking spot all day, instead of being used by other members. It's also been very hard to book a car during the transit strike, as you'd expect.