Communauto arrived in Canada’s largest city in November 2018 with 200 cars, as part of the City of Toronto’s free-floating carshare pilot project.
Communauto brings its 25+ years of urban carsharing expertise to Toronto, and has quickly become an important fixture as the city seeks to increase options for sustainable transportation, alongside reducing personal vehicle ownership and demand for parking.
Communauto Ontario, comprising two of Ontario’s pioneering carsharing organizations, is part of the larger Communauto network, headquartered in Montreal. Communauto, founded in 1994, is the largest carsharing operator in Canada, and the oldest in North America. The resulting synergies benefit not only Ontarians, but all Communauto members across Canada, from Alberta to Nova Scotia, and also those in Paris, France. Communauto team members from local communities and across the country work together to deliver Communauto’s carsharing service.
Communauto Ontario has roots in many corners of the province, where carsharing has been operating for more than 20 years and has a rich community history.
Communauto’s Southwestern Ontario branch began in 1998 as a small group of people in Kitchener-Waterloo saving money and reducing car usage by sharing a donated car.
Known in its early days as The People’s Car Co-op, the nonprofit co-operative organization later used the names Grand River CarShare and Hamilton CarShare, and ultimately became known as Community CarShare across its service areas. From its beginnings in Kitchener-Waterloo, the organization grew to include Hamilton (2009), Guelph (2013), London (2014), and Cambridge (2016).
In 2018, after 20 years of serving Southwestern Ontario through the co-operative model, the organization’s membership elected to become part of Communauto to ensure the longevity of carsharing in their communities.
Communauto’s Ottawa-Kingston branch was established as VRTUCAR in 2000 by local environmentalists and entrepreneurs Wilson Wood and Chris Bradshaw, with one car and four members. The service grew over the years to be an important part of Ottawa’s transportation network, with thousands of members and more than 100 cars.
The service expanded into Kingston in 2012.
In 2016, VRTUCAR was purchased by Communauto, formally joining two organizations that had worked closely together for many years.
In 2018, Ottawa became the home of Communauto’s English-language customer service call centre, providing exceptional support to Communauto members from Alberta to Nova Scotia.
An undeniably positive environmental impact
Carried out around the world, studies on carsharing show that shared vehicles occupy their own specific niche in the passenger transportation sector, and that carshare trips complement trips made by other available transportation modes.
Carsharing also has an important influence on:
- reducing of the number of vehicles on the road;
- reducing car usage overall;
- reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and other polluting emissions.
Fewer vehicles on the road
A survey conducted by Communauto in 2019 revealed that one in five Torontonians (20%) would be open to the possibility of giving up their personal vehicle and using a carsharing service instead.
In Quebec, each carshare vehicle put into service by Communauto replaces on average a dozen personal vehicles (based on data from our internal surveys carried out between 2004 and 2019). This result takes into account the number of users who have given up a vehicle, as well as those who decided not to buy a car, following their subscription to the service.
In Toronto, the ratio is three personal vehicles replaced by one carshare vehicle, where currently only our One-Way FLEX service is available, and in French territory it ranges from five to eight personal vehicles replaced by one carshare vehicle (source: National car-sharing survey, 2019).
The differences in vehicle replacement ratios from one place to another are influenced by each city’s urban context, and also by differences in research methodologies, and the type of carsharing services offered: round-trip station-based service versus one-way service (like our FLEX service), vehicles available with or without reservation, the variety of rates offered, etc. One fact remains, however: wherever carsharing is offered, it reduces the demand for parking spaces, and by the same token, reduces the pressure that the automobile exerts on the urban environment.
Reduced car usage
Many studies have sought to quantify the reduction in car use induced by carsharing. In Montreal for example, it has been calculated that a carsharing household drives four times less than a comparable household that owns a vehicle (source: École Polytechnique de Montréal, 2012). In its latest national carsharing survey in France (2019), ADEME, the country’s environment and energy management agency, mentions that joining a carsharing service greatly impacts personal car usage, with a 31% reduction in days of use. Comparable studies have been published in several other countries, including Germany and the United States.
This leads some to conclude that, in terms of energy, carsharing is perhaps one of the most effective measures imaginable to make transportation “sustainable”.
The fact that carshare users do not ordinarily use cars to commute, or for daily shopping, means that their behavior is shifted towards eco-mobility – i.e. the use of public transit, cycling, and walking. The resulting attitude is exactly the opposite of that adopted by the majority of vehicle owners.
Reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions
Taking into account the above-mentioned impacts of carsharing, combined with the use of vehicles in our fleet that consume less energy than those used by the general population, it has been calculated in Quebec that the shift in mobility habits induced by carsharing translates to a decrease in energy consumption, which corresponds to a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person annually.
Communauto is now present in sixteen cities in Canada, and in Paris, France. Although there is still a lot of work to do to reverse the decades of car culture that permeates our urban landscape and favours household vehicle ownership, our actions have already reduced the number of vehicles on the road by the tens of thousands.
Communauto’s commitment is to build on this momentum and grow its service and impact, all by making maximum efforts to rally as many people as possible in favor of the carsharing cause.
For more than 25 years, our actions have demonstrated that the economy not only can, but must, be used for the advancement of society, and not vice versa.
This commitment is at the heart of our mission, which is to provide solutions that allow for a smarter and more sustainable use of cars.
Help us change the world!