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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘car sharing

Taxi Disruption

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The first City Conversation of the New Year featured Peter Ladner of Business in Vancouver and Mohan Kang of the BC Taxi Association. It was sparked by the recent attempt of Uber to set up in Vancouver, which was quickly squashed. However, Uber is not the only actor who wants to see something change in mobility provision here. Indeed many who favour change hope that there will be a better alternative to Uber.  There was someone video recording the meeting – and taking photos –  but I cannot see where on the SFU website these meetings get archived. Perhaps you can help me.

Yellow Cab 234

Peter Ladner opened by saying he was not an expert in the field but of course he has editorialised about it. He opened by talking about a recent trip to Grouse Mountain where he saw an empty bus, three idle cars2go and a sign for car sharing. He said that the waste of car seats in the line up of cars is absurd and could be easy to deal with through new technology. He cited the new Helsinki app, Moovel (Daimler) and Park Together as examples. Uber is “just the most prominent and the most ugly – ruthless, aggressive and unethical.” Uber is aiming for a monopoly and will also take aim at transit. “Do we need protection through regulation?” he asked. He cited examples like Hitch Planet and Airbnb to show how they have managed to build trust. He thought that increasing the use of ride sharing would have community benefits through better mobility access and “microjobs”. On the other hand with Uber there could be a race to the bottom.

Big Yellow Taxi by C4Chaos

big yellow taxi @ gastown by c4chaos on flickr

Mohan Kang explained that his association is a non profit that represents the 140 taxi companies that serve BC but not the four that serve downtown Vancouver. [Black Top, McClures, Vancouver and Yellow]  Uber represents a good idea but they have gone the wrong way about it. Taxis are not the only service that is regulated. He cited doctors and dentists as an example of a service that needs regulation, and deals effectively to restrain unregistered practitioners. Uber has no requirements of drivers other than a post 2004 four door car and a driver’s license. Taxi drivers must have training, a special license, much more insurance than other drivers (at a cost of $20,000 a year) and pass a course at the Justice Institute. They are also subject to a criminal record check before they can get a chauffeur’s license and must have their taxi inspected every six months. A new accessible van costs $45,000 and can only be operated as a taxi for six years before it is replaced. He said the industry is effectively subsidizing accessible taxis. Uber will not provide services to those with disabilities, without cell phones and credit cards and will not take cash or taxi savers. “If we don’t need regulation for taxis, then we don’t need it for day cares – or building construction.” Regulation is necessary to protect the public. Taxis by their constant presence on the street save lives and can report incidents to the police as they happen. BCTA has been part of the Amber Alert system for ten years.

The first participant said that she would not feel comfortable getting into a stranger’s car, but felt safe in a taxi. The second said that he had used Uber in Los Angeles for seven rides and felt that the system was safe and convenient. He compared their prompt and efficient service with a recent experience in Vancouver when a taxi took 25 minutes to arrive – and showed him 200 ride requests waiting on the system. This was, of course, a Friday evening.

I was the third participant and rehearsed some of what I have been writing on this blog on this topic. Mr Kang responded to the discussion by stating that the BCTA has never contributed to any political party. He also said that the Passenger Transport Board does not show any favour to the industry and has issued additional licenses in recent years ( e.g. Garden City cabs in Richmond). He was asked are more cabs desirable? Is the industry over regulated? Could taxi fares come down? He responded that the fares are determined by the Passenger Transportation Board [using a cost of service index]. “Prices cannot be lowered”. Recent changes permit some suburban cabs to pick up in downtown Vancouver on Friday and Saturday night. But at 02:00 on Saturday (when the bars close) the peak in demand for cabs cannot be met economically by adding more taxi licences – as the service is not needed at other times. Surge Pricing on Uber was said to deal with this problem by encouraging more cars to come into the market at that time. Regulations currently forbid suburban taxis that have come into Vancouver from picking up, and have to return to their home municipality empty.

Hilary Hennegar of Modo said that the taxi industry is a public service which has been important to supplement accessible services after HandyDART was cut. She felt that there were better examples than Uber such as Seoul, South Korea that has booted Uber and set up their own system. She thought that a co-operative approach was possible rather than a predatory one. Vancouver should develop its own sharing economy.

McClures taxis at Granville Island

Benn Proctor has produced his Masters’ Thesis which is an unbeatable source of information on “Assessing and Reforming Vancouver’s Taxi Regulations”. It was observed that each car share takes ten cars off the road: car share reduces car ownership.

There were concerns over the use of the data collected by Uber which could create issues over privacy. Boston MA is using Uber data to study trip making.

Michael Geller stated that “the taxi system is broken”. He thought the value of taxi licenses on the secondary market reason enough for intervention. While the BCTA may not make political donations, taxi company proprietors (i.e. license owners) are very generous to all candidates. [As a reality check I can state authoritatively that no taxi company offered me any money when I was a candidate. Perhaps that is just an indication of how realistic taxi operators were about my chances of election. ]  We are moving to a society where young people do not have driver’s licenses let alone own cars. We have to have more choices, and the taxi industry must address their ridiculous 4pm shift change. The more we can reduce the need to own a car the better we will do.

Peter Ladner pointed to the mytaxi app and suggested that the automobile industry is ‘waking up’ to the reality of lower car ownership.

Michael Anderson stated that this meeting had been “City Conversations at its best”.

taxi by K. Yasuhara on flickr

taxi by K. Yasuhara on flickr

Somebody sitting near me was talking to the person next to him, before the meeting began, about shared ride vans in Africa. I had heard about these but this morning someone tweeted the link to a piece on Next City on the tro-tro in Accra, Ghana. This includes commentary from Uber

Shared ride, legal and unregulated vans also operate in a number of US cities, where conventional transit and regulated taxis are both inadequate. There is also a trial ride share program at SFU.

The Vancouver Sun reports that the additional weekend taxis so far authorised have made no difference but even so the four Vancouver companies have managed to put them on hold – again – and seem likely to continue to block any efforts to reduce waiting times on Friday and Saturday nights.

Read Michael Geller’s take on this meeting in the Vancouver Courier

February 4 – some more data on the quality of taxi service in Vancouver

Written by Stephen Rees

January 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Transportation

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CAR2GO Press Conference

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Line up of Cars 2 GO

The line up of cars at the Salt Building - my photo

I was quite delighted to be invited to the Car2Go press conference today in the Salt Building at what used to be the Olympic Village. There was a lot of press and tv in attendance – and the Vancouver Sun had a story this morning.   Just to be extra careful, I must make clear that the programme is not launched yet – in the sense of being able to take out a car. They have opened registrations but the cars themselves will not be available until June 18. However it is worth pre-registering now – but you will have to read the rest to get the promo code.

What makes this program different from the car share programs currently operating here (like Modo or zipcar) is that you do not have to return the car from where you got it. Like some of the new bike sharing programs, you can make one way trips. The car can be left at any designated spot in the business area, or any free on street legal in the residential area – including designated residential parking spaces. The special Smart cars are the only type available, but have advanced telematics so that they can be tracked and their location will be available to users when you have finished with it, and to the office to let them know when it needs attention. For that reason the “operating area” in the map appears to be very restrictive: the shore of the inlet to the north, south as far as 41st east to Nanaimo Street west to Dunbar. In fact you can take the car away from that – for instance for a trip to Stanley Park or UBC, you just cannot end the rental until you return to the operating area.

CAR2GO Operating Area

CAR2GO Operating Area

CAR2GO Dedicated Parking spots

CAR2GO Dedicated Parking spots

City of Vancouver Car-Share decal

City of Vancouver Car-Share decal - my photo

If you are not familiar with residential parking permit areas the City of Vancouver has a set of pdf maps showing the areas concerned.

I spoke to Bernice Paul the Marketing Director of Modo – the car co-op. She said that they feel that CAR2GO does not compete directly with them but will be seen as “competition for taxis”. They later released their own statement which says (in part)

Modo The Car Co-op, Metro Vancouver’s premier and only local car sharing organization, is curious about how this method of transportation will work.

“CAR2GO here in Vancouver is the first time we’ve seen a one-way service launch in a city with a combination of established car sharing, taxis, metered parking, and plans for bike sharing.” notes Tanya Paz, Modo’s Business Development Director. “We’re interested to learn if Car2Go will actually help reduce the number of individually owned cars on the road.”

Modo has been in operation since 1997 and as a founding member of the international Car Sharing Association, adheres to its Code of Ethics. As a transit-oriented car co-op, Modo prioritizes walking, cycling and public transit before the use of cars for transport.

Han Tjan, the  Head of Corporate Communications for Daimler in North America opened the proceedings with the usual welcomes. He said that the area selected in Vancouver is walkable, bikeable and transit served  [just like the city of Ulm where the program was launched and the city of Amsterdam where there will be 300 electric Smart cars]. Based on its success in Germany, Vancouver is the first city in Canada to have Car2GO

CAR2GO is perfectly suited for Vancouver. Daimler will open a fuel cell production facility in Vancouver [eventually the current internal combustion cars will be supplemented and probably replaced by electric cars]. These are the right answers in urban areas. The idea is innovative and successful. The idea came up in 2007 in Ulm where the  first pilot phase of 50 cars was used by Daimler employees, who are the most demanding customers. Together with Austin there are now 35,000 regular members in the two cities.

Nicholas Cole CEO of Car2Go Canada 

Vancouver is not just the first Canadian market, the company will be headquartered here and is proud to call Vancouver home. Car sharing is already working here. They will be opening with 225 low emission vehicles on June 18. At present there is no registration fee on-line at or at the office 45 Water Street in Gastown.

The Concept is based on the Smart Car that has been specifically designed for car sharing with a solar panel on the roof. It was sourced through the local Mercedes-Benz Canada retailers. It offers another easy and affordable option for the  dense urban area: it is designed for the city and enhances bus and walk trips. It is  part of the solution: an on demand alternative to vehicle ownership. It is available 24 hours a day,  7 days a week and may be used spontaneously or reserved 24 hours in advance.

CAR2GO reader

CAR2GO reader - my photo

Renting is a 6 step process –

  • find a car using the smart phone app or on the web:
  • use your membership card to gain access using the reader stuck to the windshield – see my photo above
  • enter PIN and answer two questions about the state of the vehicle:
  • you may the use the key provided to start the car; there is no need to book the usage period. There is a discount for daily use, and no requirement to return the car – you can park it and  hold on to the key if you want to. And users can always check their account on-line.
  • at the end of the rental you use the telematics system to say that you are finished
  • put the key back into the console – the car is locked using the membership card again

He said that CAR2GO is part of the new movement to collaborative consumption – share and rent to reduce waste. He acknowledged support from City of Vancouver and said that last year’s test period showed that it would be a good fit here.

There is a mandatory $2 fee for the special ICBC car sharing insurance  but that they will donate  that $2 fee for next 12 months to Canuck Place. They are also waiving the $35 membership fee for an introductory period (see below).

Gregor Robertson

said that the Salt Building was the “athletes living room” [It is to become a restaurant and this is the last event that will be allowed to used the building in its present form.] The city has the goal of becoming the greenest city and a full range of transportation options is essential to that. He also insists on maintaining the city’s livability. People in the city already walk, cycle and take transit in record numbers and were also early adopters of car sharing. There is a compelling environmental case in terms of the overall ecological footprint of car sharing. He said he was also excited to see that the company is to have its Canadian headquarters here, which fits with Vancouver’s desire to be at the centre of the  global green economy.

In answer to my question about the role of the telematics – it knows when it leaves the operating area – Mr Cole said that you are free to leave that area but you have to bring it back to end the rental period.

Bernice Paul asked if they had any information on the reduction in car use in the other cities. Nicholas Cole said that they were “just starting to collect that data and will do that going forward.”

He also said that “after we get operating we will look at the number of cars and the size of the operating area”.

Christopher Gaze – Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach one of the users in last year’s trial here said  “We had thought of getting another car. We now won’t.” In an interview with me later he clarified that:  his household has no intention of giving up their Jag, but they would not need a second car now. He currently commutes from his home in Kits to the Bard on his bicycle. Mostly.

I also spoke to Juliane Muehling, the Corporate Communications Manager for CAR2GO. She told me that Austin, Texas was quite different to Ulm – and Vancouver – but they were very keen to get the first American operation there, mainly due to the inadequacies of their transit system. They have had no problem with vandalism – as happens with the Velib bike share system in Paris. The cars stay in communication which means that they get fuel and servicing at need. There is a fuelling card in the car: users may use to refill the tank – and if they do so get some free minutes on their rental. They intend to be a small company and use local vendors and services – for example Bashir Auto is doing the cleaning. The City concession on allowing parking in residential zones is common to all car shares not just CAR2GO.

I did take the car on a short test drive and found the process to be easy. There are two videos on the web site if you feel you need more teaching. I was pleased to note that the radio is tuned to CBC Radio 2 by default – though that could change in response to user demands. The telematics system includes a hands free cell phone.

You might also be interested to know that the system was developed with (W)right ON Communications wave front services: they are a federal government funded “wireless accelerator”, a non-profit designed to promote technology.

UPDATE November 2, 2011

I have already registered myself, and have now used the cars several times

If you decide to do so enter the promo code SUSTAINABLE and you will get free registration and 30 free minutes of drive time.

CAR2GO with a bus - CAR2GO supplied image

The following links are to pdf files provided by Daimler/CAR2GO

car2go Press Release Vancouver Announcement

car2go Extra Sheet Vancouver Announcement

car2go Graphic: Success Story

Written by Stephen Rees

April 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Posted in car sharing

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