Car Shares

18 Jul

Today’s post comes from Grant who moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver a couple of years ago – thank you Grant!!

Before moving to Vancouver, Liz and I sold our car.  We haven’t replaced it since, and we are really enjoying a car-ownership-free lifestyle.  For the first year or so we got around exclusively by walking, biking, or public transit.  We’re only minutes from various bus stops, including the b-line (express bus) to UBC.

Over time, we found several activities to be a bit more annoying sans car.  The first challenge is shopping and grocery trips.  When we first moved, we needed to get a few ‘new apartment staples’ from Ikea (good ol’ Billy bookcases), but we didn’t want to spring for the delivery fee. So we lugged a number of large boxes and awkward shaped lamps with us on the bus and Skytrain. Wouldn’t want to do that regularly!  The same goes for grocery shopping.  Since we’re in the habit of shopping for a couple of weeks’ worth of groceries at a time, bringing home groceries via public transit can be frustrating.

Then we started seeing little blue and white Smart Fortwo’s around town marked with the logo “car2go”, and got curious about the service.

I had heard about Zipcar, and Modo car-shares before, and even looked into to getting a membership at one point, but I was turned off by what I saw as inconvenient features of their service.  I explored car2go and was pleasantly surprised by a few key differences between car2go and other car-shares:

  • Annual fee is only $2 and can be donated to a local charity
  • Pick up and end rentals in any residential parking spaces in central Vancouver
  • Handy smartphone app can be used to locate and book cars.
  • You can rent the car as long as you like ($0.35/minute, $12.99/hour, $65.99/day) without late-penalties.
  • Rate includes fuel, mileage, insurance, maintenance, cleaning, GPS navigation, 24/7 customer support services, and roadside assistance
  • One-way trips! The free floating concept means there is no return time or return location.
  • Parking.  Not only do car2go’s have permits for all areas, they also have reserved spots in high-traffic areas and downtown parkades.  Super easy when everyone is heading downtown for a concert or the game and the busses can’t keep up.

So it’s quite clear why we’re so fond of car2go. Car-sharing reduces urban congestion and smart cars are highly fuel efficient.
A couple months ago I had a true car-share moment.  I reserved a car on my phone and was walking toward the car.  As I approached the vehicle, a businessman sped up his pace and headed for the same car. He was bummed that I beat him there, but I kindly told him I’d reserved it.  We got talking, and turned out he was trying to get to a place that was on my way, so I told him he could hop in and ride me with me.  He gave me a toonie for my trouble, and we had a nice chat during our ride together.  It was definitely a sharp contrast to the bus; where most riders (myself include) prefer to wear headphones and to stare either at the floor, or a gadget.

I love what car-sharing stands for, but I still needs to be conscious about how I use it.  Just because I don’t own the car, doesn’t mean every trip is eco-friendly.

I have once again become accustom to using a car for things for which I don’t actually need a car.  For example, on a rainy day with hoards of UBC-ers queued for the express bus, I used to have no option but to wait.  Now I’m tempted by seeing this right next to the bus loop:

I think if there is one takeaway point, it’s this.  Since using a car-share, I think of driving more like a luxury than I did when I had a car of my own. This is probably because I’ve changed the way I pay for using a car.  I used to say to myself “I’ve already paid my insurance, and have a tank of gas in the car––may as well drive it”, but the big difference is that I now consider driving like I do any other out-of-pocket expense… “should I buy this, do I need it?”  As always, I’m pretty bad at answering that question, but hey, it’s a start.

Any other NWW-ers use car shares?  Leave us a comment about them and tell us what you like or don’t like..

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