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Tory's Toronto

Metro's Matt Elliott, formerly of Ford For Toronto, keeps the light shining on Mayor John Tory's city hall.

Car parking can’t stand in the way of car sharing in Toronto

In an era of climate change and traffic congestion, city must take all steps possible to help people 'break up' with their cars.

Car2Go has designated parking zones across Toronto but has lobbied the city for access to more neighbourhoods.

Torstar News Service file

Car2Go has designated parking zones across Toronto but has lobbied the city for access to more neighbourhoods.

Four years ago this month, I broke up with my car.

It was amicable. My Mazda and I had been drifting apart for a while. I had started freelancing full-time the year before, saying goodbye to my regular commute. And I was (and still am) privileged enough to live downtown, where most destinations are within easy walking, biking or transit distance.

But, after months of waffling, what really pushed me to finally break things off completely was the widespread availability of car share services. I carry cards for both Enterprise Carshare (formerly AutoShare) and car2go.

They get a lot of use. Meanwhile, I’m saving a ton of money on car-related expenses, I’m getting more exercise by driving way less, and I’m not always stressing about my damn “check engine” light.

So forgive me if I have trouble feeling much sympathy for the Toronto residents who complained, in a CBC news story last week, that car2go users are taking up too many parking spaces on their streets.

It’s not that I don’t understand the frustration of trying to find parking. I had a street-parking permit for years, and often tore my hair out looking for space.

But convenient access to parking has to be weighed against the overall benefits of car share services.

And the benefits are significant.

A report from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Centre, released last month, surveyed 9,500 car2go members in five North American cities and found that the service results in a reduction of the total number of vehicles on the road, which in turn results in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Vancouver alone, the report found, car2go has replaced the equivalent of 8,200 cars, thanks to users either selling their cars or opting not to buy one in the first place.

That’s huge.

None of this means I’m happy with the car sharing status quo in Toronto. Because city hall denied them permission to park their cars on residential streets last fall, car2go is currently operating in defiance of city bylaws.

That can’t stand. Toronto City Council should work quickly to hammer out a deal with car2go and other car share operators. That would allow the city to work with both car share services and residents to deal with any reasonable — and I stress the word reasonable — concerns about parking.

While they’re at it, city hall could also simplify the city’s arcane permit parking system.

Ultimately, though, this issue will come down to priorities.

In an era of climate change and traffic congestion, cities must take all steps to enable people to break up with their cars.

That goal is more important than petty complaints and minor grievances.

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