Opinions

Car shares needed

Smart car wearing a cowboy hat

BRENT CONSTANTIN ILLUSTRATION

The City of Calgary isn’t designed to be walkable, bikeable or easily traversed by transit. You’d think this would leave driving around the city as the smoothest way to travel, but as anyone who has ever tried to head south on Deerfoot at 4 p.m. on a snowy Friday in January can tell you, that’s definitely not the case.

Calgary’s newest city planning chief, Rollin Stanley, has suggested hitchhiking near high occupancy vehicle lanes to reduce the gridlock, but it’s not a solution that most people find acceptable. Waiting outside for an unreliable bus in -20 degree weather is bad enough, never mind waiting to hop in a car with whatever stranger is willing to stop for you.

Fortunately, two companies in Calgary are rising to the challenge. Car2Go, a German-based car sharing company that launched in Calgary in July, has a fleet of 200 smart cars spread out between Glenmore Trail to the south, 32nd Ave. to the north, and Sarcee and Blackfoot, to the west and east respectively. Membership sign-up is free at promotional events (they had a booth at SAIT’s Welcome Week in the Stan Grad building) and driving their cars costs 38 cents per minute.

The service is growing rapidly, and many who sign up for it are unaware that Calgary has an alternative service. Calgary Carshare, a self-sustaining co-operative that has been around since 1999, has seven cars of different sizes. The service cost is $5.50 per hour before midnight, and is free afterwards until 8 a.m.

Both businesses do have problems. Calgary Carshare, has the benefit of being able to book a car in advance, but is greatly limited by its size. As for Car2Go, the rapid growth has come with problems. According to a recent piece by the CBC, members complain of issues such as their key cards not working, confusing parking rules, and lack of availability of cars in their area.

Hopefully, the success of Car2Go and Calgary Carshare opens the door for more creativity. We can’t exactly start from scratch and fix our messy transportation infrastructure, but we can find clever ways to circumvent pricey taxis, parking, gridlock, and long commutes. Car2Go has doubled its home area in the few months since it launched.

Another business, FastCab, an app that allows taxi drivers to go around their dispatchers and connect directly with the customer, has over 200 drivers using the service. Calgarians are starting to figure it out, and hopefully we’ll get even more innovative, without resorting to hitchhiking.

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