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CarShare launches in Elmira with pair of vehicles

As anyone who has tried to walk from Elmira to Waterloo by foot will gladly tell you, certain commutes are easier with a car. For those Elmira residents whose garages are bereft of vehicles, help is on the way. The Elmira-based environment and sustainability company Enviro-Stewards has joined forces with the Community CarShare cooperative to launch Grand River CarShare, the first rural carshare program in Ontario.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Enviro-Stewards president Bruce Taylor said, “Rather than just getting a company vehicle that would sit idle much of the week, we prefer to host an energy efficient carshare vehicle to serve our needs, and also reduce our footprint, and is available to the people of Elmira.”

Enviro-Stewards president Bruce Taylor and Community CarShare member services coordinator Matthew Piggott start their engine for Elmira’s new car sharing initiative. Grand River CarShare cars are located at Woolwich Memorial Centre and at 1 Union St. in Elmira.[will sloan / the observer]
Enviro-Stewards president Bruce Taylor and Community CarShare member services coordinator Matthew Piggott start their engine for Elmira’s new car sharing initiative. Grand River CarShare cars are located at Woolwich Memorial Centre and at 1 Union St. in Elmira. [will sloan / the observer]
Community CarShare, founded as Grand River CarShare in 1998 in Kitchener-Waterloo, allows for its members (750 in southwest Ontario) to reserve and rent a car for short-time use, with 25 vehicles located in transit corridors in Kitchener, Hamilton, Waterloo and Cambridge.

While Community CarShare’s stated goal is to “reduce overall transportation costs, traffic congestion and air pollutions,” the coordinators especially emphasized the financial benefits of the program. They calculate that an average member will pay $100 per month on the program – a significantly lower monthly rate, they point out, than a typical lease.

“Our threshold is about 12,000 kilometres per year,” said Jason Hammond, president of Community CarShare. “If you drive less than that, your car is not worth owning, and CarShare would be cheaper. And really, when [public] transit is there to take all the commuting out, very few people drive more than 12,000 kilometres per year.”

So far, only two cars are available in Elmira, one at the southwest corner of Union and Erb streets (by Enviro-Stewards’ office), and one at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. Hammond hopes that more will be on the way.

“This has been the experience of most car-sharing companies,” said Hammond. “You start with a couple of cars, and then you can grow it from there. We want to see more than two; three or four would be a very nice, stable system.”

“This is the first rural CarShare program in Ontario, so this is really leading-edge stuff for this community to be doing,” said Matthew Piggott, CarShare’s member services coordinator.

The Elmira CarShare officially launched on March 1, with 15 members joined as of Tuesday’s press conference. But both CarShare and Enviro-Stewards hope that more local residents will register at CommunityCarshare.com or by calling 519-578-1895.

And, there is reason to be hopeful. Of the Toyota Matrix at the WMC, Hammond said, “We were looking at a map, and every household in Elmira is within a one-mile radius of that car. So, pretty much everyone can get to it in a 20-minute walk.”

“We’ve arrived – we have cars in town and ready to use,” said Hammond. “Now we need to build membership to make it a self-sufficient system for the long-term.”

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