Nova Scotia

HRM ponders public car-sharing partnership

The city of Halifax hopes to get into a public car-sharing program.

Halifax Regional Municipality hopes to get into a public car-sharing program.

Many cities across Canada,  including CarShareHFX in Halifax, offer car-share services — cars can be rented by the hour and members can sign up for a car online and swipe in with a special key.

HRM already offers six smart cars for its employees to use if they have to travel between city sites.

Now, the city is looking for a private company to take over two of its downtown spots. The city hopes a car-sharing company would offer service to members of the public, as well as its downtown employees.

"I think it's a good opportunity to expand the availability of cars, and particularly in downtown where car-share is in operation, not just for HRM but for other businesses, and we want to encourage that to thrive," said Dave McCusker, a transportation manager for HRM

"That will help us a bit, because we won't be the only ones looking for cars. There will be a number of cars and hopefully other business clients to use them.".

The cars the city currently has downtown would be moved to other locations. They'd still be used by city staff.

McCusker said the staff's uptake on the existing program has been good, but it fluctuates. He thinks offering the service to the public could mean less downtime for their cars.

The city's records show that their staff is using the fleet about 44 times a month, mostly for short trips. A car is taken out on average about seven times per month.

Three of the city's smart cars were brought in from other departments, and three were bought new at approximately the regular retail price — about $14,000, plus taxes and fees.

It's part of Derek Gillis' job at Clean Nova Scotia to help people use fleets of cars more efficiently.

Clean Nova Scotia is partnered with CarShareHFX. Clean Nova Scotia has allowed the company to put the technology in some of the cars that locks the ignition and the doors, until the person who booked the car comes with the right key.

There is hope that soon the public will be able sign up to use Clean Nova Scotia's vehicles in off-hours by booking a time on the internet and getting charged by the hour.

Gillis said opening up cars to the public may work for HRM.

"To have them underutilized really is a waste. To increase utilization and access for other people within HRM that indirectly or directly have contributed payment for the vehicles as citizens and taxpayers, I think it makes sense."

The city said the idea is still in the beginning stages, but hopes to find a partner.