Car co-op a progressive success story
YOUR car is likely your second largest household expense, and studies show that it’s probably parked 95 per cent of the time. The typical Canadian vehicle is driven for just over one hour per day on average, and according to the Canadian Automobile Association, the SUV that most people drive for that time costs an average of $33 per day to own, with all expenses included.
Imagine if you could, sharing a car with your neighbours, and only paying for it when you are actually using it. No more loan payments, or trips to the mechanic, and as a bonus you would be doing something good for the environment.
Ten years ago, this was the dream for a small group of people in Winnipeg who saw the growing car-sharing trend in larger cities across the world and wondered if it could work here. The group organized, found 40 people to pay $500 membership deposits and, in June 2011, Peg City Car Co-op was born. The idea started small, with three cars in Osborne Village; keys were stored in lockboxes and transactions recorded on paper.
As Peg City celebrates its 10th anniversary, it has grown to more than 2,000 members with 60 vehicles parked across 11 central neighbourhoods, and has hopes of growing to 100 vehicles in 2023. Members can now conveniently make bookings online up to a year in advance, for as little as an hour at a time, and they are automatically billed for their time and distance.
The people at Peg City have worked hard to grow their reach, and some of their success can be attributed to progressive change happening in our city. Even slow-growing, car-dominant Winnipeg is becoming more urban. Nearly 60 per cent of all new homes built today are apartments, and almost three-quarters are multi-family buildings, compared to only 15 per cent 20 years ago.
Higher-density development is happening across the city, and more people are embracing an urban lifestyle with walking, biking and transit becoming preferred transportation options. In neighbourhoods such as Earl Grey, Osborne, Wolseley and the West End, between 40 and 50 per cent of people don’t use a car to commute to work.
These are the types of neighbourhoods where car-sharing can be successful. A shared vehicle isn’t typically primary transportation, but when people are walking, biking and busing, the ability to sometimes drive can be an attractive added convenience. To be successful, a critical mass of members must live within a short walk of a shared vehicle location, which typically requires neighbourhoods to be higher density and more diverse.
Dense neighbourhoods allow a grid of shared vehicles to be located within walking distance of each other to give people alternatives in higher demand times. For people living in neighbourhoods with effective access to car sharing, the personal advantages of membership are easy to understand. Vehicles are always newer, with no maintenance headaches, depreciation or parking costs. With a range of vehicle types, members can choose the appropriate model for their use — a pickup truck for moving furniture, a hatchback for a grocery run. Most significantly, car sharing provides a method of private transportation without the inefficient financial burden of owning a car.
Peg City has found the average member spends about $1,200 per year on car sharing, about 10 times less than the cost of individual car ownership. This can create more equitable neighbourhoods, allowing lower-income households more affordable access to a private vehicle. Higher-income households might find car sharing effectively replaces the need for a second car.
Car sharing also has several collective advantages for cities. The North American Shared-Use Vehicle Survey found that each car-share vehicle typically removes 13 privately owned vehicles from the road. This means Peg City’s 60 cars are removing almost 750 others from traffic, and from creating road wear and air pollution. Parking for 750 vehicles would require five acres of land — more than three football fields.
Almost 20 per cent of Peg City’s vehicles have come from partnerships with developers, who are allowed by the City of Winnipeg to reduce the number of required parking stalls in a new development when car-sharing is included. This has been a successful initiative that helps infill development in mature neighbourhoods become more feasible.
The success of Peg City Car Co-op demonstrates that when we build higher-density and more diverse communities, new lifestyle choices become available. Ten years ago, most people would have believed car sharing was a big-city idea that could never work in Winnipeg, but our city is changing.
If we embrace this change, and welcome multifamily options into our neighbourhoods, promote street-focused local retail, support the construction of protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks, and invest in frequent, high-quality transit service, our children will be able to find the urban lifestyle so many relocate to other cities in search of.
If we can accomplish that, organizations like Peg City Car Co-op will be celebrating many more milestone anniversaries in the future.
*Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.*