Co-op vehicles coming to Whistler 

Hybrid, station wagon to kick off car sharing program

The Resort Municipality of Whistler, in partnership with AWARE and Vancouver’s Co-operative Auto Network, is bringing two cars to Whistler as part of a pilot project to see if car sharing could work in the community.

The final leasing arrangements are still being worked out, but at least one of the cars should be available in the next month according to Emma DalSanto, traffic demand management co-ordinator for the RMOW.

"We’ve been talking about bringing car sharing to Whistler for three years now, so it’s been a slow process," she said. "We discovered early on that the Vancouver model wouldn’t work here because of our population and the transient nature… so we talked to CAN (Co-operative Auto Network) to see how we could bring it up here with a slightly different model."

CAN is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1997 to give urban, environmentally aware and low-income individuals the ability to use shared co-operative cars when other transit alternatives were not viable. The benefit is that CAN memberhips are available for a fraction of the cost of vehicle ownership.

The program spread quickly from community to community with the result that CAN now boasts a fleet of 77 vehicles and more than 1,500 paid members. For every 16 people that sign up, paying $500 for a share in the co-op, CAN adds another car to its fleet.

There are also charges for using a car, with three different plans available based on your usage. These charges, which are often lower than rental car rates, pay for fuel, insurance, maintenance and administrative costs.

DalSanto says she attempted to sign up 16 members in Whistler but came up short. Nonetheless, the program is going forward with the Whistler Housing Authority, RMOW and AWARE subsidizing the leasing costs of the vehicles as part of a pilot project. If the cars aren’t utilized enough within the next year to cover costs, the cars will revert back to CAN in Vancouver.

"We know that it will take a while for the program to grow in Whistler to stand on its own feet," said DalSanto. "CAN is not for profit, but they’re not for loss. In the beginning we will have to support any shortfalls in the program, but we hope that won’t be necessary by the time the pilot project ends."

One of the RMOW’s conditions before signing on with the pilot project was that one of the vehicles had to be a gasoline-electric hybrid. After shopping around, DalSanto and CAN decided on the Honda Civic Hybrid.

The other vehicle will likely be a Ford Focus station wagon, another fuel efficient vehicle.

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