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Carsharing, waiting for Woolwich to catch on

Grand River CarShare’s efforts to expand into Woolwich may have stalled a little bit, but members of Elmira Mennonite Church want to help jumpstart renewed interest in the program. The church has already agreed to provide one of their parking spots at 58 Church St. W. to be used by the group once it gets up and running in the township, but that’s where the inherent problem lies. In Woolwich, 17 people have joined, but that number has not increased in almost a year and is only about a third of the 50 that the GRCS is looking for in order to support three vehicles in Elmira.

For organizers and carshare hopefuls, the situation has become somewhat of a chicken or the egg scenario: people are hesitant to sign up until they can be sure that the program will proceed, yet the program cannot proceed until enough people have signed up.

A SHARED FUTURE The parking spot at Elmira Mennonite Church designated for the Grand River CarShare may be empty now, but Pastor Steven Janzen (left), green team members Larry Martin, Sara Wyngaarden, Arlene Wyngaarden, Rob Brooks, and GRCS president Jason Hammond hope to have a vehicle in it soon.

“We hope to start with three cars; we certainly won’t start with one. It’ll be at least two cars,” said GRCS president Jason Hammond.
“We need a network,” he added, meaning the group wants at least two vehicles available from the beginning  to ensure enough people get a vehicle when they need one.
The last thing they want is to have people backing out of their commitment because there weren’t enough cars to meet demand.
The township has backed the carshare program by giving them a $30,000 line of credit last fall following the announcement that the Grand River Transit route 21 would become permanent.

That money, paid back with interest of two per cent, will provide the necessary working capital and help keep costs down. Parking locations have also been arranged at the UPI service centre on Church Street East and the Foodland store in the south end.

Typically, GRCS buys off-lease cars that are about two years old, and vehicles are chosen base on what’s most suitable for the location. GRCS currently has more than 500 members who have access to a fleet of 17 vehicles in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Hamilton.

Grand River CarShare and Hamilton CarShare is a single non-profit co-operative that provides its members access to vehicles on a self-serve, pay-per-use basis. The co-operative was founded in 1998 and operated first in Kitchener-Waterloo, adding service to Cambridge in 2007, and Hamilton in 2009.
The mission of the GRCS is to deliver a carsharing service and to promote carsharing as an important component of a sustainable transportation system within the Region of Waterloo and the City of Hamilton.

The co-op seeks to reduce overall transportation costs, traffic congestion and air pollution, thus improving our communities.
For as little as $10 drivers can place a deposit on their membership to join, which would help the GRCS gain a clearer understanding of just how many people are interested in the service.

Once the program is up and running the application fee ranges from $30 to $99, and are fully refundable. A complete breakdown of prices is available online.
Despite being a nearly 30 people short of their goal, Hammond said once they do reach 50 they can be operating in Elmira with very short notice.
“As soon as we have enough people, that’s when we launch. If 35 more people sign up tomorrow, we would launch next week.”

For the parishioners of Elmira Mennonite Church, assisting the GRCS become viable in Elmira and the township is an important part of their new “green” mandate.
The church formed a green team in the summer of 2009 to help create awareness about the impact that their parish and their congregation has on the environment.
Since then the group has grown to include six members, and they have undertaken some pretty big tasks.

“There is a wonderful sense of frugality at the church, through the thrift shop that is across the street from us, and through our recycling,” said pastor Steven Janzen.
To that end, the team has installed low-flow toilets and energy-saving CFL light bulbs at the church, they had an assessment done by REEP Green Solutions to locate any drafts in the building, new double-paned windows have been installed, they’re in the process of mounting solar panels on the roof, and they’re even working on establishing a community garden on one of their vacant lots this summer.

“It’s an investment,” Janzen noted of the improvements. “We’ve talked about the produce that we could gather from the garden and we could have a wonderful potluck that we can call the 50-foot meal, instead of the 100-mile diet.

“These aren’t saving us huge money, but they’re promoting ways of being green and meeting the challenge of helping our environment.”
He likened that mentality to the expansion of the carshare program in Woolwich. Instead of everyone relying on their own car sitting in the driveway, if residents instead took into consideration the environmental benefits of sharing a car, we’d likely end up further ahead.

Janzen also recognizes the inherent challenge in trying to get people to share their transportation.
“That takes coordination and communication, and there is also a sense of respect for taking care of a commonly shared vehicle that other people will drive,” he said.
For more information on the GRCS, visit their website www.grandrivercarshare.ca or call (519) 578-1895.

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