A Modo shared car based at Surrey Central SkyTrain station.

A Modo shared car based at Surrey Central SkyTrain station.

Car sharing services expected to gain traction beyond Vancouver

Modo, Car2go branching out from Vancouver core, potential for growth on frequent transit routes

Car sharing has been slow to pick up speed outside the City of Vancouver but a new study suggests the trend is starting to get more traction, particularly in urban areas of Richmond, Surrey and the North Shore.

The Metro Vancouver study found 87 per cent of car share service users surveyed live in Vancouver, where the high population density, frequent transit, challenging parking and mix of stores, offices and homes makes it more viable and attractive for many residents to opt out of owning a car.

But it notes the big operators like Modo and Car2go are expanding to sites in walking distance of existing SkyTrain stations such as Surrey Central, Canada Line Stations in Richmond and areas like Patterson and Metrotown stations in Burnaby and 22nd Street or Columbia station in New Westminster.

“The redevelopment and intensification of established frequent transit corridors and new rapid transit station areas in suburban municipalities represent some of the best opportunities to create the built environment conditions for car share to thrive,” the study says.

Thousands of new residents are expected to move into homes within a short walk of many existing transit stations and also potential new ones on proposed lines in Surrey along 104 Avenue, King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway.

There are currently 65,000 car share members in Metro Vancouver and nearly 1,000 shared vehicles, according to the report.

The main reasons for joining, survey respondents reported, were the cost savings compared to owning a car, the convenience of car sharing compared to transit and the extra mobility it offers.

“Where car share services operate today, they are popular and have become a fixture in neighbourhoods,” the report said.

Car share members tend to own fewer vehicles than prior to joining and the study estimated each shared vehicle eliminates or avoids the purchase of five to 11 privately owned cars.

Car sharing can also help take pressure off scarce parking and its users tend to make more use of transit, walking or cycling to commute to work, while using the shared cars for other trips.

The survey found shopping was the most common reason for users to book a shared car, followed by visiting friends and family, recreation or going to a restaurant/bar.

Several cities encourage developers to provide car share vehicles in new residential or commercial buildings by offering to reduce the number of required off-street parking stalls.

Cities could also relax parking rules for car share vehicles, so they can be parked on residents-only streets, the Metro study suggests.

Key trends driving the potential growth in shared cars is the fact most new housing units being built in the region are apartments, as well as the emergence of TransLink’s frequent transit network – an expanding mesh of routes that guarantee bus or rapid transit service at least every 15 minutes every day into the evening.

The report also cites waning interest in car ownership among younger generations, some of whom forgo a car to better afford a home.

After Vancouver, the survey found car sharing is most popular in Burnaby, North Vancouver City, New Westminster, North Vancouver District, Richmond and Surrey.

TOP PROVIDERS– Modo car co-op offers 303 vehicles based at 245 fixed locations in Vancouver, North Shore, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Surrey.- Car2go has 550 vehicles and operates in Vancouver, UBC, North Vancouver and Kwantlen campuses in Richmond, Surrey and Langley City.- Zipcar has 128 vehicles in Vancouver, UBC, North Vancouver, Richmond and SFU Burnaby.

ADVANTAGES – Instead of paying high fixed costs for their own car, members pay the car share only  for the time or distance they travel and never face a bill for unexpected repairs or maintenance.- Makes it easier to take trips at times or to places transit doesn’t go or to haul bulky/heavy cargo.- Choice of vehicles, including trucks and SUVs.- Car2go allows one-way trips, while Modo requires return of vehicle to starting point.