Vancouver's car-share programs offer plenty of choice

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      Whether it’s because the communal spirit is alive and well in Vancouver, or we’re just natural cheapskates, or this city is so crowded and expensive to live in that people can’t afford to own a car, the car-sharing phenomenon has clearly taken root here. Vancouver is home to three car-sharing organizations; between them there are some 800 vehicles scattered throughout the city, with more to come. The numbers are up right across the board: more users, more vehicles, more territories, and more choices.

      “Vancouver has been a really great place for car2go,” offers Katie Stafford, that company’s marketing director. “Vancouver was the second city in North America for us and almost from the beginning, utilization has been high.” Car2go, owned by Daimler North America, has gone from 225 cars in the beginning to 400 these days—all Smart cars—and recently expanded its territory to include the North Shore. More than 21,000 people have memberships in car2go—up from the 5,000 in the first year of 2011.

      “I call it ‘collaborative consumption’,” adds Stafford. “More people seem to want access to services without necessarily owning something. It’s almost like experience over ownership, and technology has allowed us all to share things like never before.”

      Stafford notes that typical usage of a car2go Smart car is 30 minutes or less, and at this point, that is the only vehicle available, although that could change. Word of mouth is a big reason for car2go’s success in Vancouver, and, in a weird twist of fate, the hockey riot of 2011 heightened the company’s visibility: one of the first vehicles flipped over by rampaging punks and captured on film was a car2go Smart car, an image that went global almost immediately.

      “Coincidentally, that was the very same day we officially launched in Vancouver,” Stafford says with a laugh.

      With arguably the widest variety of vehicles of all three organizations, ZipCar has been doing business in Vancouver since 2007 and offers just about everything, from hybrids to full-size cargo vans. “If you need to move or have to bring something home from IKEA, we have Ford F-150 vans as well as pickup trucks,” offers public-relations associate, Jen Mathews. “Usage for us is up globally, and we like to think that for every one of our cars being used, 10 to 15 personally owned vehicles have been taken off the road.” ZipCar’s stable includes sporty-type cars, like Audis and BMWs, and the company has outlets in cities throughout North America and Europe.

      After undergoing a “rebrand” and name change in 2011, Modo the Car Co-Op upgraded its fleet to include more fuel-efficient cars and is the only full cooperative doing business here. Marketing director Hilary Henegar has the enthusiasm of a believer and sees Modo as just being part of a bigger cooperative movement, one that will involve virtually every aspect of people’s lives.

      “We are the only organization that puts its profits right back into the fleet,” she explains. “But we see ourselves as part of a multimodal transportation network...complementing other forms of transportation, such as biking and public transit. We aren’t just a silver bullet.…but part of a broader change.” That includes sharing goods, services, and skills throughout Vancouver.

      Like ZipCar, Modo offers a variety of vehicles—from vans to pickup trucks to conventional sedans, but is moving more and more toward environmentally friendly vehicles. “Eleven percent of our fleet are hybrid or electric vehicles,” says Henegar,

      Typical Modo users, says Henegar, tend to be 35 years of age or under, although “everyone uses us”, and are primarily urban dwellers. Most have either given up their own personal vehicles or never owned one in the first place and tend not to drive to work. The majority of users also tend to live in dense urban neighbourhoods and need a vehicle for local usage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go on a road trip. Modo’s fleet insurance covers both Canada and the U.S. With some 280 vehicles in the Vancouver fleet, Modo is hoping to increase that number to 300 by the end of the year.

      “Vancouver users are well-served,” adds Henegar. “It’s not unusual for people to have membership in all three car-sharing organizations at once. There is much local happiness when it comes to car sharing.”

      Unfortunately, access to car sharing is not everywhere. You can get a vehicle in the city, but you can’t leave it curbside in places like Delta, Surrey, or Langley when you’re done. It must be returned to its Vancouver location.

      That could change.




      Apr 18, 2013 at 10:00am

      car2go at 38 cents per minute is hardly "cheap".

      With *manufactured congestion* on our public streets where concrete barriers give exclusive use of shared, public infrastructure to fringe lobbyists and where remaining lanes are used by divisionistas for a 50 million dollar per year cash grab, a poor sucker in a car2go stuck in traffic brought by incompetent road design will quickly see how their "meter" robbing them of their hard-earned cash.

      Expanding car2go to North Shore? Good luck on Lions Gate at 38 cents per minute.

      Per minute charge? No wonder we see car2go-s driving like mad trying to cut down their "fare".

      Moonbeam is nowhere to be seen on bringing in shared-consumption transportation providers like Lyft or SideCar as his war on cars would go out the windows with commuters giving each other a ride.

      Scott Bailey

      Apr 18, 2013 at 10:31am

      The down side to these services is the subscribers are often drivers who normally never drive and the result is body shop parking lots full of smashed and destroyed smart cars etc. If you don't believe me go to the Mercedes body shop in North Vancouver. There are a pile of smashed Smart Cars. A dirty little secret the ride share folks don't want you to know about.

      Stephen Rees

      Apr 18, 2013 at 11:26am

      I am a car2go user from the beginning. My experience shows that to be really useful, you need a good smart phone with an excellent local data plan. Like any shared system there will be times when everyone wants to go to the same place - so the dedicated car2go parkign spots may well be used. The car has the answer to that - on board GPS knows where you are and the nearest spots. But doesn't show if they are occupied. Finding a car when you are out and about means either a tablet with access to someone's wifi - or that smart phone I was talking about. Expect to have to walk quite a bit to get to the nearest smart car. Have a book of transit tickets as a back up for when you can't find a car2go. Note the car2go have now released the first app they themselves have developed for Android.

      Modo and Zip both require you pick up and return to their designated parking spots for that vehicle. car2go is more flexible but you cannot leave it just anywhere.

      Getting rid of your own car requires a willingness to use other modes (transit, walking, cycling) for a lot of trips when the shared cars don't meet your immediate needs. Not perfect, but getting better as they are more widely used. If neither zip nor modo has a car in your neighbourhood ....

      G Money

      Apr 18, 2013 at 3:40pm

      Modo is great. Very happy with their service. Serves the needs of someone living in the city who just needs a car a few times if any a month. Gave up on our own vehicle years ago because of maintenance, parking, gas. The only time where not having your own car is missed is for those long road trips, camping trips but it's too few and far between to be worth the cost of a car.


      Apr 18, 2013 at 4:02pm

      As I've asked all the carsharing companies in Vancouver a million times over, it's time to move beyond the city limits as most people don't need a car IN the city; it's needed to get out of it. Public transit is great for getting around. Way faster and cheaper and almost as convenient as car sharing. There desperately needs to be cars at Horseshoe Bay for example. I recently moved to Bowen Island and I and many MANY other residents would use it all the time if it were available yet they refuse. Silliness, and their excuses are terrible. If they can afford to put cars in a dead end zone like UBC, they can certainly afford to cater to rich West Vaners and the plethora of us island and Sunshine Coast commuters.

      a malnourished vegan

      Apr 19, 2013 at 7:27am

      Stephen Rees and others:

      1) Please comment about the coltan in your smart phone, and how much ff energy it took to get into your earth loving hands.

      2) Do the same for the batteries in the cars you've drive/driven

      Ruby Malres

      Apr 19, 2013 at 7:28am

      Modo I thank you for providing a wonderful service! My boyfriend who is a member (Ihaven't had my license long enough to join) and I were called last minute a few days ago and told that the car we had booked off was late returning and that we had been booked into another car close by. As we were leaving to walk to the next car we met a wonderful woman working for Modo's road service staff who gave us a lift to our car.
      Super kind! Super experience! Modo we love you!


      Apr 20, 2013 at 7:26am

      If you live in the west end anywhere west of Jervis, forget about finding a car2go unless you leave early in the morning or late at night. They all disappear!

      Susanne Compart

      Apr 21, 2013 at 12:44pm

      I don't know why other people join Modo but I made and still make a conscious choice not to own a car. Not because I'm cheap but because I'm thrifty, environmentally conscious, and because I believe in supporting local business. I stay with Modo because I like having access to multiple types of vehicles. I've used Modo trucks to help friends move, passenger vans for moving multiple people and smaller cars for my self. Being a Modo member (since 2001) gave me the financial freedom to own a home close to work so I don't have to commute at the expense of my personal time, my pocket book or my sanity (dealing with traffic congestion). Since the main reason I need a car sometimes is to visit family in Langley I love having cars in Surrey. I can sky train it out there to get a car and not have to cross any bridges or deal with city traffic.


      Apr 21, 2013 at 12:50pm

      I've been a happy Modo member since 2006 and what's missing in the article is that Modo is the only locally run carshare and they've been around for over 16 years as a not-for-profit. As for locations, Modo is the only carshare that has vehicles in Surrey, Richmond, south Vancouver, New Westminster. Finally, Modo has plenty of variety in the fleet including cargo vans!