Popular car-sharing service threatens to leave Toronto over delay of pilot project

In a city gridlocked with traffic, the movement of people and goods along Toronto’s transportation infrastructure has become a key issue for Mayor John Tory and much of city council.

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Alongside an increased priority on public transit, car-sharing services like car2go, Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare are touted as the way of the future and a way to take cars off the streets. The services provide users the opportunity to use a vehicle and not own one.

But last week Toronto city council voted to push back a pilot project that would have allowed services like these to buy from a stock of roughly 2,000 parking permits in downtown residential areas that wouldn’t be subject to time limits. That decision prompted a strong response from the CEO of car2go.

READ MORE: More people use car-sharing in Vancouver than in the rest of North America, survey says

“This is a clear sign that your city councillors lack the courage to support free-float carshare,” Paul DeLong wrote in an email to the company’s roughly 75,000 Toronto customers.

“We are forced to re-examine our operations moving forward in Toronto. This may mean changes to the way you currently use car2go.”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said there are still some issues with the proposed pilot project that need to be fixed. When it comes to the company’s response, he questioned the email.

“I’m not sure it’s the right approach when you’re trying to look to city council for a pilot program, to basically bite the hand that may be feeding you,” Minnan-Wong said.

Car2go won’t wait for Toronto to OK its full car-share service

He said the supply of residential parking spots isn’t infinite.

“I think a lot of residents would say, ‘I can’t park my car for two days, I can’t even park my car for three hours. Why does a private company get to park their car on local streets?’” Minnan-Wong said.

Councillor Mike Layton admitted car2go’s policies haven’t exactly helped the company garner favour.

“For … at least a year, car2go has been encouraging their members to park illegally,” he said.

Montreal car-sharing companies concerned over new regulations

While users can park the cars they use in specified public parking lots when they’re done, many of the street spots designated by these services are in residential areas and have time limits. The companies are supposed to send people to pick the cars up before tickets are issued, but the vehicles are sometimes left too long and others are blocked from using those spots. It results in tickets, which take up court resources.

In 2017, the City of Toronto said it issued 42,595 parking tickets to vehicles owned by car2go. City staff told Global News the company requested trials for about 96 per cent of those tickets. That means a total of 41,019 parking tickets issued to car2go went before the courts last year, tickets worth more than $1,000,000 in fines. Many of the cases have yet to be screened or paid.

Car2go turned down an interview request from Global News on Tuesday and referred to DeLong’s letter.

Layton, who moved the motion at council to defer the pilot project, urged DeLong to calm down. He said the city is not saying no, it’s just saying not yet. Layton said he wanted to give councillors an opportunity to better understand the project.

car2go expansion emblematic of Vancouver’s car share shift

“I didn’t want to see it die,” Layton said, claiming the item came up late in Thursday’s Council meeting in front of tired councillors who might not have had a chance to read the proposal thoroughly.

“I didn’t want to see people vote against it because they were incorrect about certain assumptions and so I went ahead and moved the referral so that we could have an opportunity to tweak it, to bring it back.”

The item will come before the city’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in April where Layton said stakeholders and the public can weigh in on the idea.

Car2go said it will notify Toronto customers of its future plans sometime within the next few weeks.

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