I was first introduced to the idea of car sharing over Sunday brunch. We had some friends over and when they came in, they mentioned they were pleased to find a parking spot on the street. I congratulated them (our neighbourhood is notorious for lack of street parking), but then one of them (let's call him Rob) said "Yeah, but the car probably won't be there when we're done."
Now, we may be notorious for lack of street parking, but we're not really a high car-theft neighbourhood. I assured Rob that the car probably wouldn't be stolen and he said, "Oh, no - it's a Car2Go. Now that we're not using it, it's flagged as 'available' in their system. Since this area of town is pretty popular for Sunday brunch, someone else will probably pick it up. That's OK - we should be able to find another one within walking distance."
Car2Go (one of several car sharing services in Canada) is a one-way service. After you join, you have access to all the cars in their fleet. You use an app to find one near you, drive to your destination and just leave it there. Other car sharing services are two-way: you book a specific vehicle for specific period of time, pick it up in its permanent spot and then return it to that spot when you're done.
Other types of services that can fall under the rubric of "car sharing" are businesses like Uber or Lyft, where individual car owners find riders in their area and drive them to their requested destination; or like Turo, where car owners can rent out their vehicles to individuals (currently only in the US, Turo is considering expanding to Canada).
Individual benefits of car sharing services are relatively straightforward: overall lower costs for transportation, including insurance, vehicle payments and maintenance; your savings will depend on how much you typically drive in a year. Research has pegged the savings in car sharing households from $154-435 (USD) monthly. But there are not just individual cost savings, there are also environmental benefits to car sharing, including reduced congestion and pollution.
Some of the estimates of environmental savings are quite significant. In a TED talk earlier this year, Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, when discussing the benefits of one of their new programs, uberPOOL - a carpooling service that they are piloting in select cities like Los Angeles, Paris, Shanghai and Bangalore - estimated that in the eight months it had been active in Los Angeles, they had taken 7.9 million miles off the road and 1.4 thousand metric tons of CO2 out of the air. In addition to stressing the positive environmental impact of car sharing, Kalanick provides a lively history of car sharing in North America (starting with the Jitney in 1914) and discusses other issues when services like Uber come to town, including municipal regulations and global adoption.
Have you tried a car-sharing service? What was your experience? We'd love to hear about it in the comments!
- Rose R.