A Toyota Prius parked near Surrey Central SkyTrain station is one of four cars offered in Surrey by Modo

A Toyota Prius parked near Surrey Central SkyTrain station is one of four cars offered in Surrey by Modo

Car-sharing stuck in first gear in Metro Vancouver suburbs

Traditional services slow to expand but advocates see much potential beyond the city's core

While the City of Vancouver has bloomed as a mecca for car-sharing – three services rent out more than 700 vehicles to users who typically forgo owning their own car – the concept has been much slower to roll into Metro Vancouver’s more car-dependent suburbs.

Modo, Vancouver’s original car-share co-op, just added its third and fourth cars based in Surrey – both at the new Quattro housing project and they were both paid for by the developer.

The other two are at nearby Surrey SkyTrain stations and are Modo’s only four car-share vehicles offered south of the Fraser so far.

Another Modo minivan has recently been added at the River Market in New Westminster, its fifth shared vehicle in that city.

But the bulk of the co-op’s 275 vehicles are in Vancouver proper, with a small smattering in North Vancouver and in Burnaby near SkyTrain stations.

Even the Canada Line hasn’t yet brought Modo into Richmond, although the co-op aims to be there soon.

Marketing director Bernice Paul said car-share vehicles first need to be authorized to use on-street parking and a bylaw is expected to come to Richmond council this fall.

She said Modo will also look to Port Moody and Coquitlam once SkyTrain arrives with the Evergreen Line.

But she said most of Modo’s 9,000 members are in Vancouver and the co-op must provide cars where they’re wanted.

“We don’t have the luxury of pushing demand – buying and placing a car somewhere to try to build up membership,” Paul said.

Density, transit a must

While Modo and for-profit services Zipcar and Car2Go might seem a natural fit in neighbourhoods with less frequent bus service, observers say the opposite is true.

Good transit and dense, walkable neighbourhoods are essential because those are areas where more residents are apt to give up their own wheels and opt to rent for just occasional trips.

Users save the cost of owning, maintaining and insuring a vehicle they might rarely use and instead typically pay about $13 an hour, with gas and parking costs included.

They can rent the vehicle that suits their trip – car, minivan, SUV or truck – rather than being limited to the one they own.

Mike Soron, a Chinatown resident and executive director of the non-profit Sustainable SFU, uses only car-sharing services to get around when he isn’t walking, biking or taking transit.

He and his partner have memberships in both Zipcar and Car2Go so they can walk up to either service’s unreserved car, scan in and drive away.

“Having access to trucks and bigger cars is just fantastic,” Soron said. “We have zero vehicles but we have all these vehicles to choose from.”

He figures they save plenty of money, too.

“We don’t have to worry about unexpected repairs and expenses,” Soron said. “So it’s very low risk and it just makes driving less stressful.”

He sees plenty of potential for suburban growth, particularly in corridors where transit is slated to improve, and says cities can do more to help by relaxing parking requirements for developments that add car-share offerings.

Transportation blogger Stephen Rees, who lives in Richmond, said he wishes Car2Go would expand.

Unlike Modo and Zipcar vehicles – which must be returned to their home parking stall – Car2Go’s two-seater Smart cars can be taken on one-way trips and left on any residential street, provided it’s north of 49th Avenue and west of Renfrew in Vancouver.

Car2Go also offers a few cars at Kwantlen Polytechnic University campuses in Richmond, Surrey and Cloverdale, and a spokesperson said the service may consider extending that concept further.

Rees argues more Car2Go satellite zones near SkyTrain or Canada Line stations, or even some town centres, would work well.

If fewer people owned vehicles but still had good mobility through car-sharing, he said, they’d use transit more.

A new alternative?

Clark Williams-Derry, research director at the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, said the traditional car-share outlets are limited in their ability to expand rapidly.

But he’s a big proponent of an emerging new option, called peer-to-peer car sharing.

Under that model, people rent our their own vehicles to people they connect with through a service like San Francisco-based Getaround, which handles the transaction and provides insurance for a 40 per cent commission.

“The suburbs are perfect for this kind of thing,” Williams-Derry said, adding most residents need their car but may not use it for long stretches of time when it could be earning extra money for them.

Getaround claims its owner members earn an average of $350 a month and the service saw huge growth this summer after launching in Portland.

Users connect through Facebook and owners can limit who they rent their car to – perhaps only their Facebook friends or people they know through church.

“As you get more comfortable with it or want to use it as a second source of income you can open it up to more people,” Williams-Derry said.

Owners set their own prices and a rating system shows who has a trustworthy track record of past rentals. Getaround’s iPhone app remotely unlocks a car once it’s rented.

Getaround co-founder Jessica Scorpio said Metro Vancouver is “high on our list” of possible expansion areas but said there are no specific plans yet.

“We’d love to bring Getaround to Canada,” said the Ottawa native. “I think the Vancouver area would be great for our offering.”

The service’s insurance coverage system would need ICBC’s approval so members are shielded from all liability.

Williams-Derry calls peer-to-peer car-sharing a potential game changer that could rapidly pump up the number of rentable vehicles in places like Surrey and Langley, lowering the bar for residents who want to move to a greener, car-lite lifestyle.

“There are all these cars just sitting there, so it could be easy to scale up really quickly.”

ABOVE LEFT: U.S.-based Getaround lets car owners rent out their own vehicles, giving renters a huge spectrum to choose from – even pickup trucks, sports cars and dog-friendly vehicles. While a typical hatchback rents for less than $10 an hour, this all-electric Tesla Roadster will set you back $75 an hour; Above right: Getaround.com co-founder Jessica Scorpio says the service would like to expand into Canada and Metro Vancouver could be considered.

Just Posted

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

web
Father’s Day Parade planned for Mission

Classic vehicles from the 1920s to the 1970s will drive through Mission, Hatzic on June 20

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Most Read