Winnipeg car-sharing proving more popular as a transportation option

When Ian Walker bought a used electric vehicle in 2018, he noticed it sat stationary far more than he liked.

“The car was sitting in our driveway, so we decided that we wanted to help some of our friends become less car-dependent,” he said.

He reached out to two friends in his neighbourhood, offering them use of the car. They started a Whatsapp group to schedule pick-ups and drop-offs — the friends both live within walking distance, so Walker just hands them the keys, free of charge.

“If our friends our friends take our vehicle out, it might cost us 25-50 cents in electricity, so it’s not really worth it, ” he said. “They can buy me a cup of coffee if they want to.”

Still, the Nissan Leaf doesn’t get enough use for Walker to justify owning it. He’s thinking of selling it in the spring. Walker and his informal carshare friends use active transportation and are also members of the Peg City Car Co-op, with Walker sitting on the board.

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Peg City Car Co-op is an organized car share that launched in 2011. Members can book vehicles through their website, paying only for the time and distance driven. The co-op now has over 3,000 members, and has vehicles in nearly every central Winnipeg neighbourhood.

CEO Philip Mikulec attributes the growth in part to the pandemic. As lockdown and remote work changed how much and how often people moved around, some reevaluated their choice to own a personal vehicle.

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“People [were] looking at car ownership in a different light, looking at ways to save money and economize, and carsharing is a great way to do that, and then, of course, other urban and environmental benefits,” Mikulec said.

Mikulec says the co-op doesn’t always replace a personal vehicle entirely, adding that some families may go from two or three cars to one plus occasional use of a co-op car. Peg City’s reach also doesn’t extend to all of Winnipeg’s suburbs — while users can drive anywhere in the cars, they must return them to their designated spots, which are largely concentrated in the centre of the city.

Peg City could potentially add “free-floating” vehicles to their fleet soon — cars that can be parked anywhere on streets within certain zones — but city council has not yet approved the proposal.

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“The car-sharing model really works best in denser, more walkable neighbourhoods where there’s more transit,” he said. “There has to be the option that people take other forms of transport and that car-sharing is just one of the transportation tools that people have in their toolbox.”

Another tool that could be coming to Manitoba is Turo, and app that lets vehicle owners rent out their personal vehicles. The company is in talks with Manitoba Public Insurance to see if they can bring the service to the province; the service has already launched in several other provinces and has been in the U.S. since 2009.

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Mikulec says Turo is more akin to a rental service than a car share. But both give consumers access to a vehicle without committing to buying one — something Ian Walker can get behind.

“This is an asset that we spend a significant amount of our income on, so for the average person who isn’t using it as much as they may want to, this is a way of better utilizing a resource,” Walker said.

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