No car, no problem

Demand for Victoria car share prompts fleet expansion

Nicole Buchanan and Keane Gruending

Anna Melnik doesn’t own a vehicle, but when she needs to shop for groceries or run other errands that aren’t a quick trip by bus, there is always a car at her beck and call.

For the past year and a half, Melnik has been a member of Victoria Car Share, a non-profit co-operative that recently expanded its 22-fleet service to three more neighbourhoods: North Park, Jubilee and Uptown.

“There were some things that were hard to get to,” said Melnik, a University of Victoria environmental studies graduate student.

Demand for the Victoria Car Share service has been growing since 1996 when five friends in James Bay decided to buy a vehicle and share it. Volunteers kept it going until staff were hired in 2007.

“They planted to seed back in the day and it’s just taken off,” said Keane Gruending, who co-manages the region’s only car share program with Nicole Buchanan.

“It’s still relatively a new concept that’s emerging,” Buchanan said of the service which is available in Victoria, Vic West, Oak Bay and Saanich. “I think rising gas prices have helped.”

The co-op’s growing success is due in part to its partnerships with developers and government, which can offer car share memberships to tenants or employees and help ease parking constraints.

The service has also attracted people looking to transition more easily to a lifestyle that is not so vehicle dependent, yet they can access a mini van, pick-up truck, convertible Smart car, two hybrids and sedans, among others.

“A lot of people are hesitant to shift to just biking and walking,” said Gruending.

For Melnik, the benefits are threefold, since it saves her from forking over a small fortune to pay for a car, she enjoys the convenience of reserving a vehicle online and she likes the idea that, thanks in part to Victoria Car Share, there are fewer cars on the road.

“I like the idea of having and using (cars) more efficiently,” Melnik said. “Everyone has their own everything. It’s nice to be able to share.”

For pricing and membership information, please visit www.victoriacarshare.ca.

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