June 8, 2018

The Case for Carsharing: The Numbers All Go to 11

Vancouver’s home-grown carsharing cooperative, Modo, issued a press release this past week with the results of a multi-city member survey that spoke to the overriding reasons for the move away from car ownership — cost.

Of the 3,500+ respondents, 42% said the cost savings is why they prefer to use the 2-way service, just edging out convenience (39%).

But what about carsharing’s other role, beyond getting us from A-to-B cheaply? As in actually removing cars off the road — that’s where it’s at, and we found that while it’s not high on the list of influencing factors for Modo members, it’s a reportable outcome.

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From South China Morning Post, via Thomas Beyer:

A Chinese carmaker has launched a vehicle sharing service in Shenzhen by offering a special deal on rental prices that works out cheaper than bike sharing.

GoFun, a car-sharing platform backed by state-owned Shouqi Group, said has put 300 new energy vehicles into service in the southern Chinese city, considered to be China’s Silicon Valley. 

The rental cost is just one yuan (US$0.16) per kilometre plus 0.1 yuan per minute, which works out at about half the cost of using Chinese ride hailing service Didi Chuxing. However, new customers can take advantage of a special deal of one yuan for three hours of driving, which is even cheaper than bike-sharing services in the city.

“It is a common strategy for technology companies to use low prices or even free services to attract new users,” said Zhao Ziming, a senior analyst at Beijing-based consultancy Cyzone. “The price will go back to normal when the companies gain a certain market share.” 

Carmakers like Shouqi Group are looking to develop vehicle sharing services based on the assumption that future consumers would rather make short-term use of those assets than owning them outright. In February, Didi Chuxing teamed up with 12 Chinese carmakers to develop an electric-vehicle sharing platform.

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From The Sun on the VanCity car-share report:

Younger car-share members are least likely to say they enjoy not owning a car.

“They are also the most likely to say they would sacrifice things such as chocolate and ice cream, an annual vacation and their sense of smell for 12 months in exchange for the free use of a private car for a year,” says Changing Gears.

The report also found that: Psychological benefits attributed  to car-sharing include freedom and peace of mind.

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From The New Yorker:

The car-sharing industry has its roots in mid-century Europe, whose coöperative vehicle pooling was mimicked, in the nineteen-eighties, by American nonprofits and city governments. But only with the spread of G.P.S. and smartphone technologies have today’s private companies been able to produce real efficiencies for the user and measurable benefits for the environment.

In 2010, Susan Shaheen, a transportation expert at the University of California, Berkeley, published a ten-year review of car-sharing data, concluding that the model basically works: those with new access to cars will drive more, but their impact is more than offset by that of car owners who begin using the programs. In other words, were car sharing to replace private car ownership in the city, the effect would likely be more drivers doing less driving. Car2Go bridges the gap between American hearts, which are still piston powered, and the typical American salary, which is just equal to the average cost of a new car.


For a local view, here is a summary from the Urban Land Institute BC of a seminar on car-sharing as part of the ‘Next Million’ series.

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Us, of course.  And now according to the Sightline Institute:

Altogether, Sightline tabulates 4,920 car-sharing vehicles in Cascadia. That’s just 0.4 percent of these cities’ estimated 1.4 million motor vehicles, but at any moment on city streets, more than 1 percent of moving vehicles are typically car-shares, because shared vehicles are driven much more of the time than private cars, which on average sit parked more than 23 hours a day. In the cities’ dense, close-in neighborhoods, car-shares account for an even larger share of moving autos, sometimes as much as 5 percent—an impressive change in just a decade or two.

Portland Seattle Vancouver, BC Two-way           Modo 450    Zipcar 225 312 225 One-way                         Car2Go 500 750 1,275    Evo 600    ReachNow 370 Person-to-person         Getaround 90    Turo 43 80 Total 858 1,512 2,550 Read more »

Gordon Price: The Urban Land Institute BC hosted another session in their ‘Next Million Series’ on April 19 – this one on “Car Sharing and Changing Parking Requirements.”  Here are some of my notes.



  • A million more people by 2040 in Metro Vancouver means another 600,000 vehicles, based on past growth.  The average yearly distance driven would be 4,680 km.
  • It costs $9,500 a year to own a car.  Modo costs about $1,500
  • Each two-way car share replaces 9 to 14 cars.
  • Developers can save on parking about $140,000.
  • The biggest obstacle to car sharing is lack of understanding in how it can work for the user.  For the developer (according to Brad Howard of PCI) it’s how to incorporate a car-sharing vehicle into private space, like a condo’s parking garage.


ADRIAN BELL, Demand Management,  Translink

  • A Road toll of up to $3 equals a reduction of traffic up to 15 percent
  • There is a huge growth industry in mobility as a commodity, likely to begin with fleet management.
  • Self-driving fleets could remove the need for on-street parking and 80 percent of off-street parking



  • Parking relaxations and consumer amenity are key realizations
  • Simple agreements are needed.  Developers avoid complexity.
  • Swiss model of car share at transit stops can be an extension of transit service, paid for through one system.
  • Three to four trips per week makes sense for car sharing.
  • The car-sharing demographic tends to younger and older. As millennials age with families, their kids will see car sharing as the new norm.
  • Insurance contracts are still out of date.
  • Big question of Automated Vehcilces is whether people will self own or share.



  • While the number of vehicles could be 600,000 for the next million people, it need be only 300,000.
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969 Burrard St & 1019-1045 Nelson St

This is my second article on Good Friday about a development application that saves or restores a church. And I’m not even Christian. Also, I recommend this article be enjoyed accompanied by Geoff Berner’s song Higher Ground

From the City’s website (bolded font is my doing):

The City of Vancouver has received an application to rezone 969 Burrard Street & 1019-1045 Nelson Street from CD-1 (445) (Comprehensive Development) to a new CD-1 District. The proposal includes:

  • restoration of First Baptist Church;
  • new church ancillary spaces, including a 37-space child daycare, a gymnasium, a counselling centre, offices and a cafe;
  • a new eight-storey building containing 66 social housing units, owned by the church;
  • a new 56-storey tower containing 294 market strata residential units, with a cafe at ground floor;

Other key parameters of the proposal include:

  • a combined total new floor area of approximately 561,881 sq.ft.;
  • a floor space ratio (FSR) of approximately 10.83;
  • 497 underground vehicle parking spaces.

This rezoning application is being considered under the Rezoning Policy for the West End and the West End Community Plan.

The project is called First Baptist Church (FBC) for now. I live close to this property. I think 56-storeys at the highest point downtown in earthquakey Vancouver is a little high but I can live with it if it’s structurally well-built. This building does not obstruct view corridors and falls within the dome skyline.
Currently the entrance is quite unwelcoming with fencing and a big, flashing, lighted sign at Nelson & Burrard. It’s unclear where to enter and not wheelchair accessible. The plans for creating an open, accessible space with a cafe look inviting. The sidewalk on Nelson may be widened as the left turning lane west of Burrard is not well used.
The developer is the First Baptist Church. The builder is Westbank. The architect is Bing Thom. The Traffic Consultant is Peter Joyce of Bunt & Assoc. I spoke to him and others at the Open House – which PT Guest Editor Thomas Beyer covered.
What I object to strongly is the amount of car parking they plan to include. They want 120 parking spaces over the minimum required for a total of 497. (Do we still have minimum parking requirements in downtown Vancouver and why don’t we have a maximum number permitted?)
The overall parking ratio is 1.4 – in the centre of downtown Vancouver at the corner of Nelson & Burrard. That means 1.4 parking spaces for every 1 unit. It’s 0.4 for the rental building and a whopping 1.6 for the strata.
To give you some perspective, these days in Metrotown many high-rises will have a parking ratio of about 1 or less. Portland is building high-rises with 0.6 or less. Some high-rises are proud to be at 0. Granted, this high-rise plans to have a number of 2-3 bedroom suites. Still, allowing so much car parking downtown encourages too much driving and drives up costs. This much car parking doesn’t meet any of our City goals.
I have worked with numerous developers over the years interested in having all access carsharing in their buildings – even before there were incentives from the City to minimize parking requirements for doing so. It’s a popular amenity for buyers. FBC is not including any carsharing as they have no interest in reducing minimum parking requirements. This leaves their buyers with fewer convenient, transportation choices.
The plan is to have 6 levels of subterranean parking. The cost of adding 6 floors underground is staggering in concrete and steel. For developers, the reduced construction time with fewer levels can be a considerable savings for them as well. Housing rates are so expensive in Vancouver that even if the intention is to sell posh 2-3 bedroom suites, the higher cost of the units from additional parking doesn’t make sense to me. Many downtown families have 0 or 1 car and carshare when they need 2 on one day.
Also, units will be sold with parking spots – not unbundled (where the buyer gets to choose to buy a unit with or without a parking space).

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Shalom, PT readers!
My name is Tanya Paz. Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m third generation Vancouverite on one side and first generation Canadian on the other. The Vancouverites on Mom’s side hailed from Scotland mainly and Dad’s parents were from Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Dad was born in Jerusalem. My parental units met in Vancouver at Oak & 41st, naturally.
I grew up in rural Aldergrove in a house on 6.2 acres – an area now part of Abbotsford – and walked along Fraser Highway to school and back, sometimes carrying my alto saxophone 2.4 kilometres one way, amongst speeding dump trucks and semi-trailer trucks.
I was a Rotary exchange student in Funabashi, Japan for a year and I studied at Université Canadienne en France near Nice for a year. I moved to Vancouver to go to UBC in 1991, and have lived here since in various neighbourhoods. I’ve now lived in the same 496 square feet downtown for 21 years between the West End and Yaletown in an area known as Downtown. Just when I think it isn’t possible to love Vancouver any more than I do, I love it just a little bit more.
I have worked for women’s rights, affordable housing, and sustainable transportation. Most notable is my work locally, nationally, and internationally in carsharing. More information on my career can be found on LinkedIn.
I spend a lot of time volunteering for the City of Vancouver chairing the civic agency Active Transportation Policy Council which advises City Council on walking, bicycling, skateboarding and other modes, and transit.
I’m an urbanist geek who loves data, discussions, process, policy, articles, presentations, helping people change their behaviour, logistics, operations, civic engagement, non-violent strategizing, seamlessly integrated multi-modal transportation, matchy-matchy outfits, tea, and ice cream.
Disclosure: I am currently advising two start-ups: VeloMetro on their Veemo and Hedgehog Recycle. I copy edit Momentum Magazine.
Disclaimer: I fell off my bicycle in a protected bike lane on Hornby Street in September, didn’t hit my head, and have had a concussion since. It’s getting better and I’m expected to make a full recovery but trains, buses, cars, mean comments, loud noise, and bright light make it worse. I miss my bike.
Of course I’m on Twitter.

For kicks I paint bicycles, oil on canvas.

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“Leaders in the Shadows: The Leadership Qualities of Municipal Chief Administrative Officers” is the title of a recent book by David Siegel, a Professor of Political Science at Brock University. Yes, it’s about city managers – those who stay out of the limelight, but who directly influence the decision-makers, making recommendations that they are then charged with implementing, hence influencing both the inputs and the outcomes.  All very ‘Yes, Minister.’
It’s a perfect phrase for those whose names you didn’t read about or may not even know, but who must have influenced the Premier in her decision to announce the building of the Massey Bridge as a done deal, prior to the transit referendum in 2014.
These Leaders in the Shadows have contacts up, down and across the decision-making apparatus, notably those in the Gateway initiatives.  They then have to provide the justifications for a policy or project, even if the stated reasons aren’t actually the ones that determined the decision.  (Which in the case of Motordom is sometimes just the need to keep feeding the machine with multi-billion-dollar projects on a regular basis.  See ‘Sunshine Coast Connector.’)
The Massey Bridge proposal had no relationship (or even mention) in the regional transportation plan, or for that matter in any of the current provincial transportation plans. The previous Minister, Kevin Falcon, had even ruled it out.  But the LitS can come up with a new set of justifications.  Hey, it solves the worst congestion in the province!  Plus whatever other arguments are needed to justify a $4 billion exercise in excess. (Sure, throw in another lane; we can get this sucker up to at least ten.).
So far they’ve been able to avoid having to explain just how the decision-making actually worked and what factors went into the process – or did not.  Here’s an obvious one:

Did you take into account the possible impacts of new technologies and new ways people will be using vehicles – whether automated vehicles, car-sharing or Uber-like ride-sharing? If so, do share the results.

With respect to the impact of automated vehicles, we can be pretty sure that no serious work was done, if other jurisdictions are any indication – as noted in this piece from today’s New York Times:

Self-Driving Cars May Get Here Before We’re Ready

Even though fully autonomous cars could be ready for the road within the next decade, only 6 percent of the country’s most populous cities have accounted for them in their long-term plans, according to a study from the National League of Cities, an advocacy and research group. …

Google, Uber, Tesla and a host of automakers have been moving at full speed to develop driverless technologies. Although the federal government has expressed support for autonomous vehicles, it has so far left regulatory decisions to state and local governments.

“Paradoxically, despite a lot of cities’ thinking this technology is coming, very few have started to plan for it,” Mr. Mitchell said.


In the case of Massey we can reasonably conclude that it is being planned in spite of whatever technology might bring or the consequences of road pricing and the ability to regulate traffic volumes through market mechanisms.  But shovels have to be in the ground by the time the 2017 election rolls around.
Prediction: the Massey Bridge may be one of the greatest boondoggles in a province that historically has had no shortage of them. Read more »

Ian found this in The Guardian:


“The freeway is only an ephemeral circumstance where all cars congregate together but the purpose of travel is not the freeway, it’s when someone gets off the freeway to get to their destination,” said Brian Taylor, director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies. “The focus should be whether or not we can enable those economic and social interactions on the other end in ways that don’t overburden the environment and society.” …
“What we’re seeing is a tremendous willingness of the younger population to really adapt to this, to use these car sharing models as a way of avoiding car ownership,” said Allan Clelland, senior vice president at Iteris, a company developing new transportation technology. …
Meanwhile, those still driving cars are dealing with less traffic thanks to Waze. Experts say the traffic app has eased congestion on freeways and sped travel times for drivers, but also led to a problematic rise in cars moving through residential neighborhoods. This has angered residents, who claim the increased traffic on their quiet roads reduces their quality of life – and the real estate value of their homes – and left cities trying to figure out how to handle another entity rerouting its cars.
“You have a scenario where the government is losing control of its traffic,” said Alexandre Bayen, director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.


Full story here.

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