Toronto car-share pilot project a step closer to reality

Several Toronto councillors sharply criticized a potential pilot project that would allow "free-floating" vehicles operated by car-sharing companies to park on residential streets, but the plan will go to city council.

Councillor slams Car2go for flouting Toronto parking rules

A Car2go official welcomed Tuesday's vote, and said he's 'hopeful' city council will approve a pilot project that would start next spring. (Daimler AG)

Several Toronto councillors sharply criticized a potential pilot project that would allow "free-floating" vehicles operated by car-sharing companies to park on residential streets, but the plan will go to city council.

The public works and infrastructure committee voted 5-1 Tuesday in favour of going ahead with the project designed by city staff that would grant up to 2,000 parking permits to car-sharing companies.

Chair Jaye Robinson says she anticipates car-sharing increasing in the future, and the city needs to have a plan to handle it. "It's not coming, it's here," she told the committee.

"I don't think we can have our heads in the sand."

But a number of councillors not on the committee, including Sarah Doucette, Janet Davis and Gord Perks, raised concerns about the effects car-sharing companies like Car2go are already having on the city.

Toronto already designates some parking spaces for car-sharing companies, earning some $100,000 in revenue. (John Rieti/CBC)

Doucette says while she thinks car-sharing is a "great" thing, the pilot, as it's set up now would be unfair to those who have paid for parking permits and then can't find a spot.

"Where will they park?" Doucette said

"We should be looking after the residents right now who have been abiding by the rules."

Perks, meanwhile, attacked Car2go's move to tell customers to park in any legal space they want, before sending out employees to move the vehicles.

"Car2go is a scofflaw company. Right now they routinely violate our parking regulations and encourage their customers to violate those regulations by parking where they are not allowed to," Perks told the committee.

Car2go says its committed to working with city

Leslieville resident Adam Wachsmann says his street frequently sees Car2go vehicles cluster together. (Adam Wachsmann)

Staff note there have been issues with clusters of car-sharing vehicles in certain areas. The report on the pilot also notes there could be issues with people taking car-shares to the site of major events, like the Ex, and congesting roads in the area.

Car2go's Josh Moskowitz didn't speak at the meeting, but welcomed the committee's decision.

"People need access to vehicles. They may decide not to own a vehicle, but they need access to them — and that's exactly what our service does," he told CBC Toronto following the vote.

Moskowitz said Car2go, which has been lobbying for permits for several years, is committed to working with the city to make its service work.

"We've worked very, very closely with each city that we operate in, and we'll continue to do so here in Toronto," he said, adding he's hopeful the city will go ahead with the pilot project.

Pilot could bring other companies to Toronto

Councillors also heard form Kevin McLaughlin, the founder of AutoShare who now advises the Montreal-based company Communauto, which could set up here if the pilot project goes ahead.

Asked if car-sharing would improve congestion and gridlock in the city, something Toronto is struggling with, McLaughlin said it's "one tool" that will help.

"But you won't wake up the day it starts to an improved commute," he said.

"It's part of a bigger effort."

The city hasn't determined how much car-sharing companies would have to pay for permits, but based on current rates it would likely be between $1,500 and $2,000 per vehicle per year. If approved, the pilot could net up to $4 million for the city.

John Rieti