Main menu:

History of RPE Thought

Posts by Tag

RSS New from the CCPA

  • A critical look at BC’s new tax breaks and subsidies for LNG May 7, 2019
    The BC government has offered much more to the LNG industry than the previous government. Read the report by senior economist Marc Lee.  
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver April 30, 2019
    The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver is $19.50/hour. This is the amount needed for a family of four with each of two parents working full-time at this hourly rate to pay for necessities, support the healthy development of their children, escape severe financial stress and participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Time to regulate gas prices in BC and stop industry gouging April 29, 2019
    Drivers in Metro Vancouver are reeling from record high gas prices, and many commentators are blaming taxes. But it’s not taxes causing pain at the pump — it’s industry gouging. Our latest research shows that gas prices have gone up by 55 cents per litre since 2016 — and the vast majority of that increase […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA welcomes Randy Robinson as new Ontario Director March 27, 2019
    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy Robinson as the new Director of our Ontario Office.  Randy’s areas of expertise include public sector finance, the gendered rise of precarious work, neoliberalism, and labour rights. He has extensive experience in communications and research, and has been engaged in Ontario’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2019 Federal Budget Analysis February 27, 2019
    Watch this space for response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners. More information will be added as it is available. Commentary and Analysis  Aim high, spend low: Federal budget 2019 by David MacDonald (CCPA) Budget 2019 fiddles while climate crisis looms by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (CCPA) Budget hints at priorities for upcoming […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Progressive Bloggers


Recent Blog Posts

Posts by Author

Recent Blog Comments

The Progressive Economics Forum

Economist <3 car-sharing

It started with a car accident in February, and the total loss of our 2004 Prius, which had only been ours for less than a year. We were quickly compensated for its market value and were in a position to buy another car, but we held off due to a looming sabbatical that would take us out of the country for a couple months. So, we did not buy a car then, and upon our return we are still car free.

The choice of owning a car works out to about $5,000 per year for us (it can be much more if you like newer, fancier cars and drive a lot), a figure that covers amortization, insurance, maintenance and gas. Thus, not owning can save you a lot of money, though it clearly is a function of the number and convenience of other options: walking, biking, transit, telecommuting.

What the advent of car-sharing does is close a gap in mobility: those trips that are too far, too awkward by transit, or that require hauling stuff. Fortunately, Vancouver has two good options that complement each other nicely.

  • Modo, the car cooperative (bonus points for being a coop) that has a fleet of cars around the city. The cars live in a certain stretch of street and you must return the car back to that spot. There are a car about 1 minute from my house, another couple within a 3 minute walk, and about 10 within a 15 minute walk. All at a rate of $7.50 per hour (minimum use is one hour), with a maximum of $60 per day, and essentially not limit on number of consecutive days.
  • Car2Go is a German outfit with a fleet of smart cars. One disadvantage is that they can only hold two passengers at a time and very little extra carrying capacity. But the plus is you can go point to point, and leave the car where you want to go, as long as it is within their boundaries (not useful if you are in the suburbs). It is 30 cents per minute flat rate. And there are many other cities with cars – I used one in Toronto with no problem.

As an economist, I love the full marginal cost pricing. That is, with car sharing you pay for using the car in real time; all costs including gas are covered by the fee (if the car is running low, the car has a corporate credit card so you can fill ‘er up). It makes you ask each time, do I really need this? For how long? Can I bundle the trip with something else?

With a regular car, the amortization is a sunk cost once you buy your car; insurance is a similar lump-sum annual cost; maintenance is always a toss up; even with gas, once you have a full tank, it lasts a while. So getting into a car is essentially zero marginal cost, since you have already spent the money.

In terms of convenience, there is no car outside my door to jump into on a whim. But between the two options, I can access the services of a car most of the time I need one, at about a quarter of the cost of owning one (plus some extra transit fares, so perhaps a third of the cost all in). On a weekend evening, I might have to venture further away from home to get a car but I have never not been able to access one. And even if we rent a car for a week or two each year for vacations, we still come out ahead.

Urban design and some good luck made the choice easier for us. Our neighbourhood has abundant shops within walking distance, which cuts down our demand for car trips. I mostly bike for my commute and around town, and we live close to a Skytrain station and rapid bus line. And school and work for other family members are readily accessible by transit and biking, as well. The key is having a wide range of mobility choices for whatever trip you have in mind.

So shifting to a zero-carbon transportation system requires more complete communities, with services and jobs closer to where people live; it also requires new investments in public transit to make it a more competitive option, and repurposing of road space for bikes. buses and trams. All of which would be powered by clean electricity. The health benefits of more active transportation choices, dramatically reduced emissions from cars, and reduced car accidents would probably themselves pay for those investments.


Enjoy and share:


Comment from Ken Howe
Time: August 8, 2013, 5:02 pm

Our Prius has a curse on it too, though it hasn’t been totalled (yet)–constant new mysterious dents, vandalism, things falling from the sky, and endless curb, post, and other parking mishaps. No previous car of mine ever saw the like. Collective options spread the cost of cursed cars, too.

Write a comment

Related articles