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Car-share group seeks support for Elmira service

A group hoping to bring car-sharing to Woolwich is looking to the township to provide a $30,000 loan to smooth the process along.

The line of credit, similar to arrangements in Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge, would allow Grand River CarShare to put three cars in Elmira.

Parked in accessible public locations, the cars could be rented by the hour to those who join the not-for-profit cooperative. The idea is to provide a section of the population with the benefits of car use without the downside of car ownership.

Matthew Piggott, the organization’s membership services co-ordinator, told councillors Monday night the service is aimed at a variety of users: families feeling pressure to have a second vehicle; those without cars and for whom public transit isn’t always an option; younger drivers without cars; and seniors who no longer wish to own a car, especially an older vehicle that may be starting to cost a fair bit of money to keep on the road.

In essence, it becomes a way to augment other sustainable transportation options.

“Car-sharing is all around the world. In every major world city, and we would like to put Elmira and Woolwich Township on that map,” he said.

Founded in 1998, Grand River CarShare (GRCS) now has 400 members sharing 16 vehicles.

In Woolwich, 17 people have already joined. The group is looking for 50 to support three vehicles in Elmira. Locations have already been arranged at the Elmira Mennonite Church, Elmira Service Centre and Foodland store in the south end.

Typically, GRCS buys off-lease cars that are about two years old. Vehicles are chosen base on what’s most suitable for the location, said Piggott.

“What we’re hearing from Woolwich is that a pickup truck would be nice.”

The $30,000 line of credit, paid back with interest of two per cent, provides the working capital and helps keep costs down, explained board president Jason Hammond in making the request at council.

As with other municipalities, Woolwich would be asked to provide parking spaces if necessary and to join the cooperative as a corporate member, allowing it to expand its fleet economically while acting as an example to others.

When Coun. Bonnie Bryant asked why the organization didn’t simply go to a bank for money, Hammond explained the non-profit cooperative has some difficulty with conventional financing. Municipal support helps keep costs down, and provides an extra layer of confidence for members.

That said, the venture is on firm financial footing, he added.

“We are self-sufficient and we’ve been operating as a business for 13 years.”

Elmira resident Jeff Windatt, a car-share member who gave up car ownership two years ago, said extending the service into the township would have many advantages, including a cleaner environment, healthier residents and reduced traffic.

Having a car available on an as-needed basis would allow others to reduce the number of vehicles they own even if they don’t go the same route as his family did, he added.

“What we really want is the transportation, the freedom, without all the hassles of the ownership of the car – the pollution, the cost of having the car sit there – and our answer is the car-share,” said Windatt.

“We could rent it for an hour, just like we could a power tool from Home Depot.”

Mayor Todd Cowan asked staff to investigate the support options for Grand River CarShare, with a report due back at a future council meeting.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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  1. Good article and from listening to the word on the street it appears many people read this when it came out and heard about Grand River CarShare.

    If anyone in St. Jacobs or Elmira is interested in having a car in their neighbourhood it is important that you call 519-578-1895 or send an email to info (at) grandrivercarshare.ca so that we know that there is interest. When we have the right # of members then we will launch the vehicles.

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