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Your Ride: Vancouver

Karen Quin Fung writes about sustainable transportation and transit policy every Tuesday.

Bus-sharing is a great option for Vancouver's community organizations. Here's how it works

Members book vehicles in advance, picking them up and dropping them off at permanent storage locations.

A man walks in front of the No. 16 bus in downtown Vancouver.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

A man walks in front of the No. 16 bus in downtown Vancouver.

Thursday is National Seniors Day. Many seniors today enjoy healthy, independent, socially connected lives, supported by loved ones and surrounded by familiar places — a cause for celebration and gratitude.

But a fair number also face uncertainty, if they are unable to safely operate their cars or cannot afford to do so. In many Vancouver neighbourhoods that primarily cater to drivers, giving up a car can mean not just a harder time meeting basic needs or accessing medical services. It can mean more effort required to stay connected to friends and family, to participate in community or to enjoy recreational activities.
That’s a big loss to those of us who value and cherish our seniors. But it can be devastating for seniors lacking other sources of support.

New challenges spur new solutions. I learned of one called the Bus Co-op, which adds yet one more option in the eternal struggle to get around in ways that work.
Much like car-sharing, popular with individual drivers in Metro Vancouver, bus-sharing allows organizations to use buses when they need them, in a different way than traditional ownership or bus rentals.

It works like this: An organization invests in shares in the co-op to become a member. As a member, they can rent and use buses that are stored, maintained and insured by the Bus Co-op. Members book vehicles in advance, picking them up and dropping them off at permanent storage locations. Organizations provide their own driver, and take responsibility for fees like parking and tolls. The buses transport 18 to 22 people at a time.

Meanwhile, ongoing costs like insurance, maintenance and long-term parking are spread among all the co-op’s members. All benefit by paying cop-op staff to manage these details, allowing for better use of an organization’s staff time. The member organizations have a partnership role in the co-op, compared to just being a customer of a rental bus company. And they also get more of a say in the future of the vehicles.
For the Bus Co-op’s members, working with and providing services to seniors, the co-op model is a great fit. They’ve been garnering attention and interest among potential member organizations from across Metro Vancouver, who all have transportation needs but who want to spend less of their tight budgets on getting around.

More proof that when we work together to respond to where our assets, strengths and needs lie, we can not only make better use of what we’ve got — we create better ways of working for everyone.

Karen Quinn Fung writes on sustainable transportation issues and policy. Find her
@counti8  on Twitter.

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