City proposes new rules in attempt to lure car-sharing companies

The City of Calgary is considering changing a number of regulations in the hopes of making the city a more desirable place for car-sharing companies to do business.

Calgary hoping to fill transportation void left by Car2Go's departure last fall

Communauto, which already operates in a number of Canadian cities, says it should have vehicles on the road in Calgary this summer if an agreement can be reached with the city. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The City of Calgary is considering changing a number of regulations in the hopes of making the city a more desirable place for car-sharing companies to do business.

On Wednesday, a council committee approved new parking rules which would allow car-sharing vehicles to stay beyond posted time limits of one hour or more. The rules would also reduce the fees charged of car-sharing companies.

More than 140,000 Calgarians had taken out memberships in ShareNow, formerly known as Car2Go, before it withdrew from Calgary last fall, as part of North America-wide cutbacks. One of the challenges it cited was the cost of parking across the wide swath of Calgary.

Coun. Evan Woolley said the city's rules weren't the reason Car2Go left, but flexibility is needed for an industry that can change quickly.

"I would hope — and I think a healthy system is one that is competitive — that we see multiple players, so that we're not left with our citizens relying on one company," Woolley said. "So that as the technology and the sharing economy evolves, companies are going to rise and fall."

Car2Go's departure left some Calgarians in a lurch, as some had come to rely on the on-demand rental cars as their family's secondary, and sometimes primary, vehicle.

Calgary's parking arrangement for car sharing was five times more expensive than that of Vancouver, according to Sandra Phillips, a former Car2Go regional director who now works as a mobility consultant in B.C.

"If you are a car share, probably your No. 3 cost item is parking, and so you need to have an arrangement that makes it sustainable, financially sustainable, in the long run," Phillips told the Calgary Eyeopener. "Obviously, no car share expects to get that benefit for free, But there also has to be some consideration in what makes the business financially viable in the long run." 

Another challenge to attracting a car sharing company to Calgary is the extent of the city's sprawl, she said.

Among Wednesday's speakers was a representative for Communauto, a car-sharing company operating in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. Marco Viviani said his company's users typically keep the car for longer periods, unlike Car2Go, which was often used for one-way trips.

Viviani said the updated rules are why his company is talking to the city about setting up shop in Calgary, possibly even by this summer.

"Because we can't assure that a car won't stay more than two hours in a place, you know, it's in our interest that a car is used because this means that people need them," he said. "But we can't assure, and we don't want to be fined by this."

City council will vote on the proposed policy changes next month.

With files from Scott Dippel and the Calgary Eyeopener


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