Montreal to allow Communauto users to drop off cars at downtown parking meters
As Car2Go exits Montreal, local car-sharing service beefs up its offering
As the car-sharing service Car2Go vanishes from North America, Communauto has been working to pick up the slack in the 15 cities in which it now operates — adding 700 vehicles to its Canadian fleet.
In Montreal, the service is getting 475 new vehicles, bringing the total number of car-sharing vehicles in circulation to 2,000 by the end of 2020. Half of those will be "FLEX" vehicles — a fleet of electric and hybrid cars that can be picked up without a reservation and dropped off just about anywhere in areas served by Communauto.
One of the sources of frustration for Montreal users of the car-sharing service has been the restriction on leaving a FLEX vehicle downtown.
Drop-off points are limited, so they often have to make a choice: either park outside the downtown area and walk, or circle around an authorized parking spot and wait for another user to drive the vehicle occupying that spot to leave.
That's about to change.
Coun. Éric Alan Caldwell, the city's executive committee member in charge of mobility, said the city is amending the rules to help "develop an efficient and user-friendly model" by allowing Communauto users to park at meters downtown.
Starting in June, Communauto users will be able to drop off a vehicle at any parking meter for a flat fee charged to their account through the company's smartphone app. Once left in a metered spot, the vehicle can remain there until the next user comes along to drive it away.
"It means our customers will be able, in our app, to enter the number of the meter" and the parking charge will be applied to their account, said Benoît Robert, Communauto's founder and CEO. "They won't have to pay" at the parking meter itself, he said.
The exact rate is still being figured out, Robert said, but "it surely won't be very high."
Robert and Caldwell are counting on the pilot project actually freeing up parking spaces downtown.
Right now, Caldwell said, when someone can't find a place to park, it's because there's not enough rotation of spaces.
With car-sharing, "there's a lot of rotation," Caldwell said.
It will also free up spaces now reserved for car-sharing vehicles only.
That system "is not optimal," said Robert, "because it removes space for all other users."
Communauto was launched in Quebec City more than 25 years ago — the first such service in North America. It has since expanded to 15 cities in four Canadian provinces and operates in France, as well.
Saturday is Car2Go's last day in Montreal as it winds up its North American operations.
Though it will soon be the city's only car-sharing service, Communauto says its real competitor is car ownership.
The company says any fee hikes will be due to increases in maintenance and insurance costs.
The number of Communauto subscribers in Montreal went up by 40 per cent in 2019.
Caldwell said the city's regulation allows for any car-sharing operator to set up shop in Montreal but, so far, none have shown interest.
- A previous version of this story said Communauto would not increase prices. In fact, they said there may be increases in order to cover rising costs.Mar 03, 2020 11:21 AM ET
With files from Brian Lapuz