Maven, General Motors' car-sharing app, launches in Toronto

General Motors is bringing its car-sharing app to Toronto. In the U.S., nearly 80 per cent of its users are aged 18-34.

City council cautiously approaching pilot project to grant companies parking permits

Maven, the car-sharing arm of General Motors, launches in Toronto on Tuesday. The target demographic: drivers aged 18-34. (Maven/Facebook)

Millennials, start your engines — with your smartphones.

That's the promise of Maven, the latest car-sharing service to arrive in Toronto. General Motors is behind the brand, which launches Tuesday with some 40 vehicles that can be found in lots across the city.

Maven aims to distinguish itself from similar companies like Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare and Car2go, with slicker technology, lower prices and a range of vehicles — from compact cars to SUVs. It's already running in big U.S. cities, where nearly eight-of-10 drivers using it are between 18-34.

"For us, that's exciting," said Steve Carlisle, president of General Motors Canada.

He says many young people living in dense urban areas realize it's "maybe not the world's most convenient thing, or affordable thing, to own a car."

There's the hassles of parking. There's insurance. And then, Carlisle says, there's the fact that many personal vehicles just sit there unused 95 per cent of the time. The hope is that Maven vehicles will be used far more, potentially taking up to 10 personal vehicles off the road.  

Maven's arrival heaps more pressure on city hall.

Car2go recently told its customers it's re-evaluating its operations in the city after city council voted to delay a pilot project that would have helped the company. (John Rieti/CBC)

Councillors recently voted to delay debate on a pilot project that would grant residential parking permits to car-sharing companies — whose vehicles are officially called "free-floating car rentals" at city hall. One of the big concerns is that the shared cars would leave residents looking for spots.

Coun. Gord Perks warned there are parts of the city where parking demand is overflowing and said council wants some assurance from the various companies that they'll keep their vehicles out of certain areas.

Car2go was so upset by council's stalling that it has threatened to stop operating in Toronto.

Cherise Burda, the executive director of Ryerson University's City Building Institute, says city hall should move to embrace car-sharing services.

"This is a giant city. You cannot make parking spots for every single person who has a car," she said.

"We have to look at other ways to get around."

Should Toronto be charging more for parking?

Burda encourages a "multi-modal" approach that ensures people can choose transit, active transportation or find a shared car near them. Vancouver is moving much faster than Toronto to build this kind of system, she noted.

She says the city's also not charging enough for its parking permits.

"Essentially, we are subsidizing cheap parking for drivers. And we are penalizing people who don't have cars, either because they can't afford them or they choose not to have them," Burda said.

The parking spots should stay, she says, but the city should look at upping the fees so drivers know: "this is a privilege to be able to park."

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.