We estimate that a car in Montreal spends ninety-five percent of its time parked every week. In this context, self-service cars could contribute to reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and their deployment should be encouraged, believe researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique, in a memo jotted down in the framework of the consultations conducted by the City of Montreal on this type of transportation. The transportation commission has started leaning toward the system of self-service cars, which has been in place in Montreal for a little over a year but only authorized in four arrondisements.
Ecole Polytechnique researchers Catherine Morency and Martin Trepanier have been following the evolution of car sharing for seven years, as much in Montreal as elsewhere in the world. If they make the case for prudence in the installation of the self-service system, the two researchers anticipate that in the same capacity as traditional car sharing (through reservations), the self-service cars will likely push the people of Montreal to give up ownership of a vehicle.
Car sharing is well-documented, but the self-service system is much less so. Car sharing contributes to putting the breaks on the motorization of households, and we believe that the self-service system will have the same effect.
In a general way, the data gathered from Auto-Mobile, the name given to the self-service cars of Communauto, has shown that the average distance traveled during a trip on a self-service car is 3.8 kilometers (as compared to 23 kilometers for traditional service), that around 92 percent of the reservations made on Auto-Mobile last less than three hours, and that the users rely on it mostly to run errands (shopping), visit a friend and return home.
Fears of Harming Other Modes of Transportation
The results of a questionnaire that users participated in reveal that self-service cars have replaced mass transit in nearly forty percent of cases and taxis by a share of ten to fifteen percent. This data has made the Coderre Administration fear that this service harms other modes of collective and active transportation, including taxis. This is, by the way, is what has put the breaks on the expansion of the service.
However, the researchers believe that self-service does not directly compete with other modes of transportation. In fact, it allows for taking trips that would have not happened through other modes, which, they say, do not correspond to needs.
Still, the researchers invite the City to be cautious, making the case that it will be necessary to assure the complementary nature of this service to that of traditional car sharing, as well as other modes, like Bixi and mass transit. They also note that the service established in Montreal is a lot more flexible than the Parisian model, which only allows for one provider. The cars of Autolib' are electric, but they require being constantly connected to a charging station, which is not the case with Leaf, a constituent part of the Montreal service fleet, Auto-Mobile.
Fleets Going Electric
The two Montreal providers, Communauto and Car2go, know full well that they are making a case for the virtues of their service in front of the transportation commission. "For those arrondisements that have authorized the service, it's a total success," assures Jeremi Lavoie, director of Car2go Montreal. "The fears that can be expressed, like the problems tied to snow removal or the major complaints on the part of the citizens concerning parking spaces have not been confirmed."
Both Communauto and Car2go believe that the City should not favor falling back on a sole provider, like in Paris. Contrary to the Parisian model, the system in place in Montreal does not require investments on the part of the City, which takes in revenue from universal paid parking.
But going electric could become a stake. During his visit to Paris last May, Mayor Coderre seemed to have appreciated the Autolib' trial. He had even met with Vincent Bollore, President and General Director of the Bollore Group, provider of the system for self-service cars in Paris - something that raises some concerns on this side of the Atlantic.
But while the company Car2go, whose fleet is made up of gas-powered Smart cars, believes that it would be too expensive for it to install charging stations - the City would need to charge them, it says - Communauto maintains to be able to do so, but gradually. To this effect, the company concluded an agreement with the ADD Energie company and is counting on the collaboration of the Hydro-Quebec electrical grid.
In light of the consultations, the Coderre administration should decide the future of self-service cars between now and the end of the year.
Would this type of urban transportation really replace the need for personal vehicles? Has car sharing been introduced in your city and has it been successful? Have you ever used a car share?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
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