car2go Toronto pilot

Toronto car-sharing company upset over stiff parking rules

Representatives from one of the world's biggest car-sharing companies say that Toronto is falling behind when it comes to embracing the future – and that we only have city council to blame.

Car2go announced late last week that it would be "reexamining" its operations in Toronto after council voted to delay a pilot project that would let car-share members use residential parking spaces on city streets.

"We've been trying to work with the City of Toronto for almost five and a half years to get a pilot up and running," said car2go regional director Josh Moskowitz by phone today.

"We've done our due diligence," he said, pointing to a study on the link between car-sharing and lower greenhouse gas emissions, "but unfortunately council doesn't want to acknowledged the benefits we bring to the table in terms of mobility and transportation."

City staffers, however, back the idea of a one-year pilot project aimed at bolstering the car-share industry here in Toronto. 

In fact, it was the city's Department of Transportation Services that recommended a free-floating car-share policy be adopted this year in the first place.

City council voted 30-2 on Thursday to defer the motion, which came as a surprise to many – both because of how one-sided the vote was and because the motion had been submitted by a city department.

"If I understand correctly, car2go's proposal was for 2,000 free-floating permits at $1,500/yr," wrote someone on Twitter in response to news that car-share companies had incurred more than $6.5 million in parking fines since April of 2016. 

"So, $3M/yr. On an annualized basis, the city is taking in about 20% more than that in fines. Hmmm…"

City council's deferral doesn't mean that the pilot project has been scrapped – only delayed – but it does throw a wrench in the German transportation company's plans of expanding locally.

"Given the City of Toronto's consistent unwillingness to establish this critical free-float carshare policy," wrote car2go North America president and CEO Paul DeLong in an email to members on Friday, "We are forced to re-examine our operations moving forward in Toronto."

"While the Toronto City Council seems focused on giving preferential treatment to car owners," DeLong wrote, "other major Canadian and U.S. cities are increasing their support for carshare. In a nutshell, Toronto is being left behind."

What does this mean for the roughly 75,000 current car2go members in the 6ix?

Moskowitz says that "every option is on the table now," evading my questions about whether the service was considering pulling out of the Toronto market.

"It's really unfortunate for Torontonians," he said. "We are nothing without our customers, and they stand to lose the most as a result of council's actions."

Some online have suggested that the foreboding email is an empty threat, but it is of note that car2go – which is available in 26 cities worldwide – has pulled its services out of Miami, San Diego, Stockholm, London and Copenhagen (among others) in the past.

The company assures members that they will be notified in advance of any major changes to service, so they "can plan accordingly."

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