What if Kingston…

Car Sharing, automobile rental, Kingston, OntarioKingston is a city like many others in that its geographical boundary has expanded over the past few decades.  New development in low density residential areas has pushed folks who live, work and play in Kingston away from the core, while this has increased our dependence on automobiles.  Although some Kingstonians carpool or take the bus, for the most part, these modes of transportation are not convenient when you’re juggling tight schedules, which force you to hop all over the city.  Given the current transportation scheme in Kingston, cars are a necessity for most of us, but what if there was an alternative for occasional, and infrequent automobile users?  What if Kingston adopted a car sharing program?

For those who may be unfamiliar with the car sharing model, it is best described as short term automobile rental.  Whether you need a car for 4 days or only an hour, car sharing services and co-ops offer affordable rates, without the maintenance hassles or full costs of car ownership.  From ZipCar to AutoShare and VirtuCar, most of these services operate with dozens of convenient satellite stations throughout a given city.  Otherwise, last minute requirements for an automobile are easily accommodated by online and phone reservation systems.  Some of the bigger players also have iPhone apps, which permit users to easily book and locate the most convenient vehicle pick up/drop off station.

The convenience and awesomeness doesn’t end there.  Insurance costs are included in the hourly rate, and when it comes to fueling up your shared vehicle, most services provide you with a pre-paid gas card.  Okay, you do have to pay for gas eventually, but that doesn’t happen until you get your invoice. More importantly, operators such as ZipCar have fleets of hybrid vehicles, which helps put conscientious users’ minds at ease when weighing the environmental side of automotive transportation.  Spokesperson Lesley Neadel provides additional insight into the environmental and financial benefits of ZipCar:

Each ZipCar member consumes approximately 220 gallons of gasoline less than when they owned their own vehicle, resulting in significant oil conservation. At current membership levels, ZipCar will save 16 million gallons of gasoline and 150 million pounds of CO2 annually.  Sixty-five percent of our 250,000 members tell us that joining ZipCar led them to either give up a car, or halt/change a purchasing decision.

Considering Kingston’s desire to become Canada’s most sustainable city, I believe that a car sharing service would be a good fit here.  Encouraging people to share rather than buy a car has many benefits, which includes less congestion during rush hour, fewer vehicles vying for limited parking spaces, as well as improved air quality.  As someone who couldn’t afford a vehicle until well after graduating university, there are likely many debt-ridden 20-somethings who would take advantage of this.  Looking forward, our household will likely have to purchase a second car down the road, however a car sharing service could save my future family more than money.

Thanks to Andrew Currie for today’s car sharing photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

16 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • I bet the students could make great use of this too. When I was at Queen's, the township was this foreign, far off world but something like this could really help get the students out there.

  • I've read that traditional car rental companies such as Hertz have adopted their own special version of "car sharing", however the big difference is that they don't have convenient locations for you to pick up and drop off a vehicle. Call it what you will, but theirs isn't car sharing. ZipCar etc… have been in Toronto and other Canadian cities for some time now, so there is a market for this sort of thing. If they did move to Kingston, I think it would be great to see locations near the Universities, College, downtown, and shopping centres as a start. I can't tell you the number of time I would have preferred to drive myself rather than rely on Kingston's less than fantastic taxi services.

  • Great idea! Especially in a city as riddled with students as we are. Seems there is an age restriction of 21+ though for zip car.

    When I lived in Toronto, the most zip cars I've seen in a parking lot was at Ikea :)

  • For AutoShare and VirtuCar, the minimum age to join is 23, so ZipCar's age restriction of 21 is actually the best of the big three. The age restriction is likely determined by each respective service's insurance policy. If you take a look at the fine print, there are further limitations. For <a href="http://www.zipcar.com/how/faqs/one-faq?faq_number=1>ZipCar you must: "have had no more than two "incidents" (moving violations PLUS accidents) in the past three years and no more than one incident in the past 18 months."

    They can't be faulted for that sort of caveat. Ultimately they want to keep insurance costs down, and ensure that their vehicles aren't being driven/wrecked by bad drivers.

  • I completely agree. A while back, I wrote to ZipCar asking if they'd consider this if there was interest. They told me to fill out this part of their site: http://www.zipcar.com/notify-me to gauge this interest. They said it only takes about 20-25 potential members to convince them to put in a new location.

    • This is a very timely comment on an old post. After visiting the Market today I noticed a Zip car while crossing the road. Was it a trial run, or simply a Zip Car making a trip outside of the GTA? Exciting nevertheless!

  • convenient locations – what do you mean b that. What is a convenient location to one person may not be a convenient location to another person. Some rental companies will drop of a car for you and then pick it up.
    How would the rates compare to lets say Avis, Hertz , etc

    • Sure, the convenience of any given pick up location could arguably be contested, but generally speaking they are spread out and well thought out. I am not certain if Zip Car offers delivery of the vehicle to the user. As mentioned they employ the reserve and pickup model. As for their rates, it costs $30 to join, $55/annual fee, and then hourly rates of $8 (Mon-Thurs), $11.25 (Fri-Sun), or daily rates of $73 (Mon-Thurs), $88 (Fri-Sun). Those rates include gas and insurance, however there are other rates available through a variety of plans. VirtuCar in Ottawa has similar rates, but employs flat monthly billing.

      As for traditional rental companies, Enterprise was the only one I could find, and they offer a $35/day rate. Doubtful that includes gas or insurance though.

  • I did look at Zip. It looks ideal for the occasional short trip ( a few hrs) that does not have time constraints. Murphy's Law – The chance of the vehicle being returned late is proportionate to the urgency of you needing to borrow a vehicle. May not be ideal for the frequent user. As for other rental companies, you must return car with the same amount that reads on the fuel guage. They will try and push insurance. However, if you do have car insurance it may cover rental vehicles.

    • Its not aimed at regular car users, its aimed at people who generally are traveling without car but would like to use one on occasion. Eg I think nothing of walking the 8km each way to walmart, but if I was buying a tv or some bags of dirt I wouldn't mind a cheap way to rent a car for an hour. If you want a car for daily use it wouldn't make any sense to rent in this manner. Kingston would seem pretty easy to have a few locations that were convenient enough for most.

  • I’d be very interested. Getting rid of my vehicle at the end of the month…. and trying a bike for a change. Glad to see this information…

  • Ottawa based zip clone considering coming to Kingston. Fill in the survey:

  • Sounds like Options is bring car sharing to everyone in conjunction with their anna lane development. Fee schedule is a little different then the for profit ones http://optionsforcars.ca/index.php?option=com_con… They only have a handful of cars in Toronto now. With Virtucar having less then 2000 members in Ottawa I don't think both will be able to operate here

  • Some form of car sharing is about to launch in Kingston, though it looks like virtucar and Options have gotten together based on this job posting That may be unfortunate considering virtucar's higher rates

    • Interesting. If these guys can prove that there's a market for car sharing in Kingston, then perhaps that will attract more/less costly competitors.

  • Vrtucar is here, 2 cars with a 3rd coming to Queen's area

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