Auto Pilot: Car sharing movement takes big city steps
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If your nursery school report card noted you didn’t like to share and/or only did so under the threat of excommunication from the mid-morning snack program, then car2go might not be for you.
But if you normally play well with others, are 18 or older and with a valid driver’s licence, then you might consider this new way of getting access to a cute, little smart fortwo car as a partial solution to your transportation requirements.
Car sharing programs are obviously not new, but car2go ramps it up a notch in several ways.
For starters, car2go is a wholly owned subsidiary of German automaker, Daimler. It’s already firmly established in 11 cities across Europe and North America. You Vancouverites already know that your city is among that 11, and the first Canadian one to join the party.
Toronto joined the party just this past week, on June 30. Calgary and Miami get their car2go programs later this July. Expect announcements on other large Canadian cities later this year.
But at its launch here in Toronto, Katie Stafford, car2go’s North American communications manager, outlined the primary differentiator: “Unlike other car share programs, our cars are free floating.”
Yes, they never touch the ground, like flying saucers and really good hovercrafts. Actually, free floating refers to the fact that they never have to be returned to where you started. You can get into one wherever you find one, and end your trip at any one of the 200-plus Green P parking lots in car2go’s “Toronto Home Area,” bordered by Jane Street in the west, Eglinton Street in the north, Victoria Park Avenue in the east, and the water of Lake Ontario in the south.
Stafford notes that car2go’s free floating nature lends itself to more short and/or impromptu trips than traditional car share models, which often require minimal hourly rental periods and reservations. But the vehicles can be reserved, via a smartphone app or on car2go.com.
Members only pay for the time they use the car, by the minute (35 cents), with discounts for hourly or daily use. If you don’t drive more than 200 km at a time, you just pay the minute/hour/day rate. No fuel. No parking. No insurance. No maintenance. No nothing. You can go only a couple of blocks or to Thunder Bay and back — your call. But on longer hauls you’re going to get better rates from the traditional rental car outfits.
The drop off lots are not coincidentally located in the area of Toronto best served by the TTC. At the Toronto car2go launch I also met Nick Cole, the top exec for car2go’s North American initiative, and he told me that the car2go model is designed to “compliment” public transit.
“This could even be the bridge to someone utilizing public transit,” added Cole, referring to families and commuters who need just a bit more of the flexibility car2go provides to meet all of their transportation needs across the city, but don’t want to make that big jump to car ownership.
Car sharing is obviously a movement on the rise, and frankly I’m a little surprised. I wouldn’t have thought there would have been the necessary growth in maturity among the driving populace since nursery school and kindergarten — that most of us can now do sharing without grimacing.
On a personal note, sharing is perfectly OK with me, it’s Brian I hate, Brian who always hogged the sandbox bulldozer set.
5 steps for using car2go
• Become a member and get a card.
• Locate a vehicle spontaneously or via a phone app, or book through car2go.com.
• Hold card by reader to unlock doors. Enter pin to release key stowed next to touch screen.
• Use the key as normal to start car — and go wherever you want in the province.
• End journey at any designated parking area (200-plus). By minute charges automatically debited from your credit card.