Vancouver is the carsharing capital for North America where the city has more car-sharing vehicles per capita than any other North American city. With the support of the City of Vancouver through granting carsharing permits, Vancouver hosts four carsharing providers, starting with modo in 1997, followed by Zipcar in 2007. Growth in the carsharing industry for Vancouver was experienced when car2go entered the city in 2011, followed by Evo in 2015.
As demonstrated in Figure 1 below, we can see that membership growth exploded in 2015 when the two free-floating operators (car2go and Evo) became available in Vancouver. Interestingly, round-trip operators (Zipcar and modo) experienced membership and fleet growth as well despite increased competition in the market. This suggests that round-trip and free-floating carsharing models do not necessarily compete directly with one another but can actually complement each other. It also means that providing a denser network of carsharing vehicles increases reliability and convenience of the service – both necessary for people to transition from private vehicle ownership to carsharing.
Figure 1: Car Share Market and Membership Trends
Source: 2013-2017 Panel Surveys. 2013-2017 Parking Decal Data. City of Vancouver.
Vancouver has achieved some major milestones. For example, Vancouver offers more than 3,300 carsharing vehicles, making it the largest fleet size in Canada and outpaces fleets in major U.S. cities such as Seattle and Portland. In 2016 Vancouver reached 100,000 car2go members, making it car2go’s largest membership base.
The success of Vancouver’s carsharing programs could not be possible without the support of the city. The City of Vancouver offers support to carshare operators through several special permits:
- Vancouver has what is called a “carsharing residential parking permit” that allows carsharing members to park the carshare vehicles in “resident only” and “no parking except with permit” areas. It is not a super permit because it does not allow access to metered stalls (like f.i. the permits in Seattle). Carshare operators purchase these permits for every vehicle in the fleet and have to renew them on an annual basis.
- Vancouver also allows carshare operators to purchase on-street parking stalls. Once a location is identified and agreed upon, the curbside parking stall is dedicated to the carshare operator. The city even installs signage with the company’s logo.
- Vancouver’s parking bylaw encourages developers to add carsharing spaces right from the beginning of the development phase. A developer can replace 5 regular parking spaces if they create one publicly accessible carsharing parking space.
Car Sharing Trends In Vancouver
In 2017, Vancity survey more than 4,000 car-share members in B.C. and found that the most common cited reasons for using car-share services are convenience (95%) and saving money (62%), followed closely by concern for environment (58%) (Vancity 2018).
Based on the survey, Vancouver’s carsharing demographic comprises mostly of people who are 40 years or under (see Figure 2). This demographic typically uses carshare services for spontaneous trips such as going to a bar or restaurant, grabbing last-minute groceries or getting to work when they’re running late. car2go and Evo are natural fits for these types of trips since both companies offer per minute pricing and are readily available in Vancouver, certain areas in Burnaby, North Vancouver and New Westminster.
Figure 2: Age Distribution of Respondents
An interesting fact from the survey highlighted that approximately 1 in 4 respondents have more than one carsharing membership as demonstrated below in Figure 3. A common reason why young car-share members have multiple carsharing memberships is because it brings peace of mind to have several options. For those in the age bracket 41-50 years old, they typically use round-trip services (Modo and Zipcar) because public transit does not service their needs, is a hassle to move large items and not ideal for weekend trips.
Figure 3: Age and Carshare Model Memberships
Echoing Susan Shaheen’s study that carsharing sheds privately-owned vehicles (Shaheen 2016), the results from Vancity’s report shows that 1 in 4 survey respondents disposed at least one private vehicle, while 40% avoided acquiring a private vehicle because car-sharing was enough to fulfill their needs (Vancity 2018).
No Ride-Hailing for Vancouver
Perhaps one of the reasons why Vancouverites have a high adoption rate for carsharing is because ride-hailing is illegal in Vancouver. While ride-hailing companies such as Longmao, U Drop and GoKabu have attempted to enter the Chinese market, the Ministry of Transportation has actively been slapping on hefty penalties and fines for drivers who operated without a license (Vancouver Sun 2018). In 2012, Uber attempted to enter Vancouver with its limousine service but quickly withdrew when provincial regulators forced all rides to have a minimum fare of $75 (Vancouver Sun 2015).
While ride-hailing still remains illegal, residents are demanding for it. In the recent 2017 general election, ride-hailing was a key issue for political parties platforms. The elected Conservative party endorsed ride-hailing in Vancouver and even promised in its campaign to have ride-hailing by end of 2017 but has since delayed it (Kelly 2017). With no set-date for ride-hailing to come to Vancouver, this means people will look for other solutions to solve their first or last mile problems which could include free-floating carsharing.
The 4 Key Car Sharing Players in Vancouver
Vancouver carshare operators use round-trip and free-floating business models. In Figure 4 below, movmi describes all the possible types of business models a carshare operator can offer. Vancouver does not offer any one-way carsharing services, where members can pick up a vehicle from one station and drop off to another like Autolib. Vancouver also has a limited peer-to-peer carsharing model with Turo (Mccredie 2017) and there is no ride-hailing offering to date.
Figure 4: Types of Carsharing
Daimler was the first organization to offer free-floating carsharing world wide and on a global scale. It was founded in 2008 and currently offers service in 26 cities, the majority in North America (42%) and Europe (54%) and 1 city in China (4%). car2go arrived in Vancouver in 2011, Vancouver being car2go’s 4th city globally to launch. car2go’s total fleet size is just under 14,000 vehicles where car2go offers 1,250 vehicles in Vancouver alone.
Competitors such as EVO have since entered the market, which influenced car2go to offer more, larger vehicle types than its Smart Fortwo. Depending on the market, the fleet consists of Smart Fortwo, Smart ForFour, A- and B-class as well as CLA and GLA. For Vancouver, car2go’s 1,250 fleet consists of 1,000 Smart Fortwos and 250 CLA’s and GLA’s (CBC 2017).
The popularity of car2go can be attributed to a variety of reasons. The main ones are about the low barrier of entry:
1) there is no membership fee associated with becoming part of the program
2) the registration process is fully automated (including driver’s license and credit card checks). This allows people to be able to rent a vehicle within minutes from the time they apply to the time they’re approved to drive on the road.
Car2go offers other unique features to help make members journey more enjoyable and convenient:
- Radar functionality – members can set a radius where they will receive a notification when a vehicle is available within a desired distance (e.g. 1km away from them)
- Real-time parking availability – members can look on the app to see which car2go designated parking spots are available to park at in real-time.
- Autolock – if a member accidentally does not end their trip properly, the vehicle will automatically lock after a few seconds. This prevents unverified people from entering the vehicle and also stops billing the member for unwanted time.
Susan Shaheen, a renowned researcher for shared mobility, and her team looked at various North American cities to quantify the impact of carsharing services.The study looked at 1,010 Vancouver car2go members and concluded that out of the 5 cities assessed (San Diego, Calgary, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington), Vancouver saw the largest overall impact on the number of private vehicles on the road (Martin & Shaheen 2016). It is estimated that for every car2go vehicle approximately two Vancouver members would sell their vehicles and another seven members reduced vehicle travel by as much as 60 million kilometres in a year. This translates to 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases prevented. Vancouver car2go members also reduced their amount of cab rides (approximately 65%) and about half were taking the bus less often.
Overview / Market Size
Evo is a free-floating carshare service offered only in Vancouver. Evo was founded in 2015 by British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), an auto club associated with CAA, that offers insurance products and roadside assistance. It was the first ever free-floating carshare service offered by an automobile club worldwide. Evo only offers Toyota Prius, an electric hybrid vehicle and services cities in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster.
Evo is known for exceptional customer service – which comes to no surprise. Evo is owned by BCAA which is a customer-service focused business. It leverages this core strength by helping members find the nearest parking spot and effectively troubleshoot problems that members may experience.
Vancouver locals are happy to use Evo, perhaps due to Evo’s intimate knowledge of the “local life”. All Evo cars come equipped with bike and ski racks which accommodates to many Vancouver locals’ active lifestyle. In the winter months, you will catch locals skiing at Cypress, Whistler Blackcomb or Grouse Mountain. In the spring and summer, people will be biking around.
Evo also leverages their knowledge of Vancouver to build strong relationships with local businesses to offer perks to Evo members (e.g. members receive 10% off all food and beverage purchases at 49th Parallel and Lucky’s Donuts, a popular Vancouver food place). Evo also offers exclusive free events to members such as cooking classes or art classes.
Evo members also have the convenience of using Amazon Alexa to make reservations – the only carshare in Canada to offer this (BCAA 2018). Members simply have to ask, “Alexa, ask Evo to book me an Evo”. This process should make finding and reserving cars easier.
Founded in 1997, modo is Vancouver’s first carshare and second in North America. Modo is a company that puts people first, not profit. The company is a co-op with the mission to improve the livability of British Columbia’s (BC’s) communities by offering locals an affordable transportation option that also helps reduce traffic congestion and parking problems.
Modo is a station-based carshare that offers over 600 cars, SUVs, trucks, minivans, hybrids and EVs. Members have the option to access these vehicles by choosing one of two pricing plans: pay as you go with rates starting $5 per hour (with $500 refundable share purchase) or an $8 monthly subscription with reservation rates at $9 per hour.
To date, modo has more than 20,000 members. It services areas across B.C., including the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. Modo also helps other smaller carshare and not-for-profit operators in North America by leasing its inhouse built technology called Engage.
modo cultivated a strong community of members through local partnerships, brand ambassadors and local bloggers (modo 2016). Choosing leaders in the community, these brand ambassadors and local bloggers raise awareness about the service and how carsharing fits their life style. modo also teams up with local companies to provide members additional benefits for being a part of the modo community. Members who join modo are enthusiasts of the shared economy and value helping communities and the environment.
modo built its own technology and benefits from it because it allows modo to prioritize which features to develop next to improve operations. This technology is also leased to other smaller carshare operators and not-for-profits which lets these organizations to have an affordable technology option as well.
When comparing one-way or two-way carsharing, there is debate which model has more impact in shedding vehicles. According to one study, round-trip service users are 5 times more likely to shed a car in comparison to one-way members (Namazu & Dowlatabadi 2018). Debate aside, modo conducted a survey in 2018 and found that almost half of the survey respondents out of 3,500 respondents got rid of their car or did not purchase a vehicle because their modo membership was enough to fill their needs of having access to a vehicle.
Zipcar is one of the longest standing carshare operators. Like most station-based carsharing organizations, Zipcar offers a large variety of different vehicle makes and models, including: hybrids, SUVs, pickup trucks, luxury vehicles, minivans, and cargo vans. To be a member of Zipcar’s program there is a membership fee and usage fee for when you rent the vehicle. Originally, membership costs was setup as an annual fee ($300) but the original founder adjusted to $70/year or $7/month to make it affordable to most members. If members book a vehicle, they are charged on an hourly ($7.50) or daily ($69) basis, a cost effective alternative to car ownership.
Today over a million people across 500+ cities and towns globally have access to over 12,000 Zipcars.
People with Zipcar memberships enjoy the benefit of having access to its global network. Members can rent a Zipcar across all around the world from the United States, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Thus, for tourists visiting Vancouver this could be an excellent transportation option especially for last-minute planners who need a vehicle for a long-period of time because modo vehicles are typically booked out weeks or months in advance. Additionally, tourists with Zipcar memberships may be more comfortable reserving a Zipcar than another vehicle rental because they are familiar with the rental process and have trust in the Zipcar brand.
Vancouver Car Sharing Trend Forecast
Vancouver is ranked as the most expensive city in Canada. With skyrocket housing costs and paying for the most expensive auto insurance costs in the country (Ferreras & Hua 2017), many residents try to find ways to save money. As Figure 5 below shows, saving money is a major reason why they choose to carshare. Convenience is one of the top cited reasons as well for Vancouverites to carshare.
Figure 5: Primary Reasons for Using Carshare Services
Source: Metro Vancouver. The Metro Vancouver Car Share Study Summary Booklet. 2014. https://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/1507_PPE_MV_Car_Share_Study_14Oct20HR.pdf
What’s interesting though, is that even if people could afford to own a vehicle they wouldn’t (Vancity 2018). Over 77% of round-trip members, 55% of free-floating members and 68% of dual members would choose to carshare over private ownership.
Figure 6 – How does your financial situation fit into your decision to car-share?
Source: Vancity. Changing Gears: Exploring the car-sharing culture shift in Metro Vancouver. 2018.
Supporting the Carsharing Industry – Carsharing Technology Vendors
Vancouver doesn’t only offer the largest carsharing fleet per capita, it has also attracted technology companies in the shared mobility space to headquarter or open offices in Vancouver. Invers, a German-based company and one of the veterans for carsharing technology, opened an office in Vancouver to serve North American clients. To date, Invers has 250 launches in over 20 countries in the shared mobility sector.
Ecoservice, a Vancouver-founded company in 2011, helps carshares with their operations, in particular their fleet management. Ecoservice historically focused on making carshare companies lives easier by handling the fueling, balancing and maintenance of the vehicles and building technology to optimise that work. After gathering years of operational experience, Ecoservice ventured into building a technology platform called Ecomobix that is a complete operating system using algorithms and intuitive UX to help operators.
Conclusion & Thoughts
Why is Vancouver the Carshare Capital of North America?
1. The Right Policies and Regulations
The support of the City is one of the reasons why Vancouver is the Carshare Capital of North America. Perhaps the biggest contribution the City has provided to encourage carsharing is by offering carshare permits. For approximately $65/year per permit, a vehicle can be parked in any residential or unmarked/unrestricted space. For streets where the City designates shared vehicles only, this would cost approximately $300-$1,300 per vehicle to park it there (Metro Vancouver 2014). EasyPark also provides discounts for carshare vehicles.
In addition, the City of Vancouver provides incentives for developers to build carsharing spaces because it reduces their requirement for the total number of parking spaces they have to build (which allows developers to build more rooms or other higher value-added spaces). In Vancouver, for every carshare space a developer installs this will reduce the required number of parking spaces by five parking spots (Metro Vancouver 2014). For example, in early June 2018, the Vancouver City Council approved four residential projects that will each contain at least one car share parking spot (Chan 2018). To learn more about the various regulations by city, click here.
The City also allows carshare operators to purchase on-street spaces and remove parking meters. This comes at a high price where the cost to remove the meter is equivalent to the maximum annual revenue the parking space would have generated if metered in that calendar year (City of Vancouver 2017). The payoff can be worth it though for carshare operators if the purchased spot is in a popular location that members usually frequent. On-street parking is also a good way to raise awareness of your carsharing service to people who are not yet members or a good way to keep your service top-of-mind for members.
2. No Uber/Lyft – yet
Vancouver is the last largest North American city to not offer Uber or any ride-hailing services. Although the recently elected NDP government promised to have ride-hailing by end of 2017, this has not come to fruition yet (CBC 2018). Since Vancouver does not offer this type of service, it could be contributed to why carsharing is used more frequently by Vancouverites than other locals in their cities.
3. Ecosystem of carshare operations
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the presence of four shared mobility providers helped grow each other services. With more providers, this drives more awareness and helps people become more familiar and trusting of the new service. Said differently, if people are more exposed to something, they will become more familiar with it and thus be open to trying it. In 2010, Vancouver had 10,000 members and 400 cars compared to today, with 200,000 members and 3,300 vehicles. The presence of carshare organizations can be felt and seen all around the city: Evo does movie in the park, Modo supports LGBTQ community and Zipcar has a strong ambassador program with universities.
Convenience is one of the primary reasons people use carshare. With 4 providers, members are usually within 500m to get a vehicle that fits their needs. This means that members can rely on this service when they need it and trust the service will be there for them when they need it. As research has shown, some people gain so much confidence in the service that they’ll get rid of a personal vehicle or not purchase another one because the carshare services sufficiently fulfill their needs.
4. Other Transportation options
Vancouver offers a plethora of options to get around the city. Vancouver’s public transportation system ranks 3rd for most sustainable in North America and 28th overall in the world (Brougham 2017). Accompanying the various bus routes and skytrain, people can use the extensive bicycle infrastructure network to get around the city. They can either take their own personal bike or use the City’s Mobibike, a bikesharing service. The Mayor recently announced in early June that it will be offering a Vancity Community Pass that will be eligible for low-income riders who need an affordable option (Mahichi 2018). Based on the City of Vancouver’s data, bike riders make approximately 43,000 trips per month across the 10 major biking routes in Vancouver (City of Vancouver 2018)
Factoring in all these transportation modes: from carsharing, public transit, bicycle lanes and bikesharing, movmi predicts that Vancout is ripe for Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The city has the infrastructure and support to allow residents and tourists leverage the various modes of transportation in a seamless way – it’s just a matter of when, not if, it’s going to happen.
movmi is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia with deep understanding of the shared mobility landscape and strong ties with the City. Our founder, Sandra Phillips has helped launch car2go and Evo in the city and as movmi we have worked with Modo, VeloMetro, EcoService and Translink. If you would like to learn more about Vancouver and its shared mobility network, please contact us here.
Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about the shared mobility infrastructure of a given city check out our Shared Mobility City Index. Contact us directly if you would like a custom report.
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