It was about this time last year that I was introduced to the Regina Car Share Co-op (RCS) when I attended their AGM. I wasn’t really prepared for that night, thinking the event would be more of a public info session than a. What I found was voting for president, electing a board and watching the process of incorporating a co-operative.
I was by no means on the ground floor of the RCS (Read a good summary of RCS history from Sasquatch’s Rick Morrell). The co-operatives origins date from 2007 when a dedicated group began to meet around the idea of introducing a Car Share to Regina (Regina Car Share About Us). To the credit of the board member’s hard work, in late 2009 the RCS purchased its first car for bookings (see Global News’ story) (Regina Car Share Ibid).
Car shares are gaining in popularity across the urbanized world. The whole idea is to provide people with easy access to an automobile when they need it (for more on car shares check out these links from the RCS website). Usually the fee structure has some kind of subscription for membership and a pay-per-use fee each time you take a car (See the RCS’s pricing here).
I was lucky enough to ask the RCS president John Klein (who’s comments are green) and board members Jennipher Karst (blue) and Chris Soucie (red) questions about where the RCS is now and where they will be going in the future.
What’s been the public response for the RCS so far?
The general public still needs to witness car sharing in action for it to gain broader appeal. When they do, they’ll realize like our current members do, that it’s the wave of the future, like MP3s have been for music. We have a plan to market the car share a bit harder this year, and make more people aware of this great style of vehicle use.
We have 6 individual members and 1 joint membership currently. We are also working closely with an urban developer on a developer membership and are trying to work out the details for other group (i.e. business) memberships. I think the $500 membership fee gives people an initial “start” and perhaps is a slight membership recruitment barrier, but people need to realize that this is a refundable fee – when they leave the car share they get it back! It’s just sort of like a damage deposit protecting us from someone totalling the vehicle and leaving us to pay the deductible. Also, people don’t really understand the true costs of vehicle ownership, probably because humans have a hard time thinking cumulatively. When you add up maintainance and insurance and repair and fuel costs, it really makes more sense from an economic standpoint to car share.
It’s true people don’t realize the true costs of vehicle ownership. Another hidden cost of vehicle ownership which is very significant is depreciation which can equate to several thousand dollars a year. Imagine if people made investments in Mutual funds or the Stock Market and lost 15-20% per year of their hard earned money. Thats exactly what’s happening with just the depreciation of your vehicle and then of course there are all the other costs. By the time the depreciation rate begins to finally slow down the maintenance cost increase to fill that gap so there really is no cost saving between buying a new or used vehicle (just reliability in a newer vehicle). We at RCS believe that once we can get the word out about what Car Sharing is and how it can benefit them we believe the response will be positive and the growth or RCS will be inevitable just like all the other Car Shares across the world.
What partnerships (with sponsors, government and/or organizations) have you made?
Co-operative Development Initiative has given RCS funding to market and start the co-operative. We’ve also made sponsorship arrangements with the Regina Kinsmen Club and Sage Condo Developments which will bring more vehicles to our fleet in 2010. In addition to those most recent partners, there have been other levels of government that have helped us on our way to building this co-operative, including the City of Regina, and the provincial government with Go Green.
The feedback from the government has been positive however we are still waiting to hear back from the City of Regina on how they are going to assist us (in particular parking) and we are hoping Go Green will include us in their Programs and Serves webpage.
How difficult has it been to plan and create the RCS; for example buying and insuring vehicles, compared to other co-ops, jobs, non profits or projects you’ve been involved in.
I don’t have enough experience with other organizations to make a direct comparison. It was more difficult to incorporate as a car share co-operative than I expected though, with lots of legal roadblocks in place that I felt ran counter to the SK government’s message of “open for business” in 2007. Insuring vehicles wasn’t problematic, but we did teach a lot of people at Knight Archer Insurance about car shares, and spent a few hours sorting out just the right insurance for our registrations and auto paks.
It’s been a 2.5 year process, and I think some folks have been frustrated with that, but we’ve faced quite a few challenges such as lengthy bylaw approvals by government, the nature of volunteer boards, project coordinators that have come and gone and funding shortages. I really think, given the inherent challenges of a building SK’s first car-sharing service from scratch, folks should be somewhat understanding and our slow-going progress. Especially since we’ve made progress, and are now sharing a vehicle. I challenge people to support this exciting new initiative in their city and province and embrace the alternative to this province’s deeply entrenched car culture.
I was there for the first meeting but soon took a job overseas and wasn’t around for the legal process of the business all though I hear it was challenging. When I eventually returned to RCS I could tell that spirits were low and so was our depleting bank account. We had to make some new decisions with our spending and focus on getting a vehicle right away even though we didn’t have enough to purchase one. We decided to lease a vehicle in October and ever since things have been improving.
Why are the car stations/drop off points in the inner city?
Car sharing is more profitable when more people use fewer cars, and so high density population areas like the inner city are ideal starting points.
Cathedral, Downtown / Transition and General Hospital / Heritage communities is where we’re starting. Right now the vehicle is parked in the Cathedral neighbourhood on Athol St.
Yes higher density is important because it means more people are within walking distance to the vehicle. You also have to be in a neighbourhood were people can do a lot of their everyday traveling by foot, bike, public transportation, car pooling or even sometimes families who need a second vehicle sometimes. Car sharing is meant to supplement those other modes of transportation. For example I may only go shopping once a week or take in a movie once in a while or go out of town or visit some friends. These trips aren’t as frequent as going to work or school everyday and therefore car sharing works for those types of lifestyles.
What geographic issues or barriers have you found when deciding station/drop off locations?
Since it’s Regina, we experience a few months where block heaters need power cords, and street parking doesn’t offer this feature. Otherwise we’re always open to businesses or government offering us ideal parking space that is accessible 24 hours a day, and is near a bus route or hub, and can have a bike rack near it too. Since Regina’s population is a little spread out, it’s tricky to find parking spots that are central to thousands of potential eager members in one place.
Lighting is an issue too. People get the keys out of a lock box and you need to see the lock box to be able to enter the code. This is a particular an issue during the winter when daylight hours are few.
Eventually we will be getting an electronic Fob key that will open the cars so lock boxes will no longer be required, however, we still believe in having a well lit area as it reduces crime and make things easier for the members. I’ve been in contact with The Running Room on Albert St and we have are fingers crossed that things will work out there.
The Sage in Harbour Landing developer, while presenting to planning commission, mentioned they were negotiating with the RCS to have a car stationed at their development. Is this going to happen?
We are finalizing that deal with Sage soon, and are committed to seeing it happen, as it’s a great idea Sage proposed. We’d made sponsorship pitches around the city, and Sage actually approached RCS with the idea of sponsoring us, because they saw the value car sharing brings to condo developments and the people who will live there.
We want to encourage vehicle sharing as much as possible. Car sharing not only reduces co2 emissions, it also builds community, and changes the way people think about space and use vehicles. It’s one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building sustainable and connected communities. I’m really excited about how car sharing gets us out of our little individualistic, self-contained car-bubbles. When you get into the car sharing vehicle, the radio is tuned to someone elses station and often there are traces left behind from the last sharer (e.g. grocery lists). Car sharing makes me feel more connected to the people in my city and creates such a more pleasurable and creative space to drive.
We are eagerly awaiting the car from Sage!!!
Are stations at specific developments or buildings a strategy the RCS will be looking to use in order to gain more customers? For example: the new Capital Pointe builders had discussed installing in their underground parking an electric vehicle charger for electric and hybrid vehicles. In the future, would the RCS be looking to have a dedicated parking stall and car in such projects?
RCS is eager to work with residential (city too) developers, and has developed a membership class aimed at encouraging more developers to sponsor, or join RCS as a member. Residential development depends on car sharing being implemented, in many new buildings planned in Canada, including one I’m aware of in Toronto. Vancouver’s Co-operative Auto Network has deals with developers too, so the developers don’t need to build as many parking spaces into their new facilities.
Seams like a real popular move by developers these days.