Car sharing is becoming a popular alternative for people who only need a vehicle occasionally and are looking for ways to reduce their transportation costs and carbon footprint.
“It is not a good option if you are commuting, but I feel the world needs fewer cars,” said David Josephy a professor of biochemistry at the University of Guelph. “I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles and if you ever want to be convinced the world needs fewer cars, that is it.”
Josephy joined a Guelph car-sharing cooperative five years ago.
“I abandoned my car in 2011,” he said. “It broke down and the cost of repairs weren’t worth it.”
The cooperative operated for a couple years until the non-profit Community CarShare cooperative came to Guelph.
“We sold the cars and some members like myself went with the new service,” said Josephy.
The Guelph group is one of nine Community CarShare cooperatives in Southwestern Ontario. The original cooperative was founded in Kitchener Waterloo in 1998 by 10 friends and has since grown to more than 1,900 members with a fleet of more than 60 vehicles.
“We are the only local non-profit car-sharing co-op,” said Jess Webster regional sales coordinator for Community CarShare Inc. “We have been in Guelph since 2013 and have just over 160 members here.”
For a monthly membership fee as well as a pay per use fee, members have access to a variety of vehicles located in designated parking spots throughout the city. The fees cover all vehicle maintenance costs as well as gas and insurance.
“We started off in Guelph with a couple vehicles and now we are up to eight,” said Webster. “We are mainly focused in the downtown core. That is where the transit lines run and where the majority of our members are.”
Josephy lives near the U of G and usually walks or bikes to work but when he needs a car or even a truck he reserves it by logging in on the Community Car Share website.
“There is a car on campus and one near my home,” he said. “You can tailor according to your needs whether you need a van to move things or a small low-mileage car for a long trip. That is something you can’t do with your own car.”
Members are issued a smart card that gives them access to the car they reserved. They hover the card over a dashboard card reader in the car to unlock the door.
“You can only get in if you have a reservation,” said Webster. “The keys never leave the vehicle. Your smart card is essentially your key for getting in and out. It also tracks what you do as a member.”
The data they collect allows them to accurately record vehicle use and assess their members’ needs.
“That is something we closely monitor to see where our members are coming from and what vehicles are in demand,” said Webster. “That is how we know where to add more vehicles.”
She said when you factor in the costs associated with car ownership such as monthly loan payments, insurance, fuel and maintenance, car sharing is cheaper option for people like herself who don’t need a car for all of their transportation needs.
There are also environmental benefits.
“By reducing the number of cars on the road and private car ownership overall we are contributing to lowering carbon emissions,” she said. “That is something we look at as well.”