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Car-sharing market threatened by Uber’s impending arrival

Vancouver has one of the largest car-sharing markets in Canada

By Aryn Strickland and Kirthana Sasitharan , in City Feature story , on March 29, 2017

Vancouver’s hugely successful car-share sector will take a hit when Uber arrives in the province, says a consumer-behaviour expert at the University of B.C’s business school.

“It’s naive to say that [Uber] is not going to impact the car-sharing business. It will,” said Dahl, a professor at the Sauder School of Business.

Consumer-behaviour specialist Darren Dahl demonstrates the size of the market for car-sharing.

Vancouver has one of the largest car-sharing markets in Canada. It is the first city in the world to have more than 100,000 car2go members and it is home to four different car-sharing companies: car2go, Evo Car Share, Zipcar and Modo.

Dahl said the long-term existence of all four car-sharing programs will be in question if Uber arrives.

“Whether we need four companies or not is a great question but that’s business, things settle out according to how big the pie is.”

The provincial Liberal government has pledged that, if the party is re-elected in May, British Columbians will be able to use Uber by the end of the year. Concern over the impact Uber would have on taxi industries is well-documented, but there has been little attention given to Vancouver’s booming car-share program.

For Vancouver city Coun. Geoff Meggs, said he thinks the car-share sector will be fine.

He acknowledged that “Vancouver’s got one of the most advanced car-sharing markets in North America, maybe the world,” but he said the city has not considered protecting the car-sharing market.

“I don’t think there would be much we need to do on the car-sharing front, frankly. I haven’t thought hard about it, but I don’t believe there’s a problem.”

Meggs is more concerned about the impact Uber could have on taxis.

“The main impact of ride-hailing on the city would be the destruction of some of the quality taxi service we have.”

Dahl, however, said that the presence of Uber will disrupt growth in the car-share market.

“What will happen is some people will switch or a new entrance into the market won’t consider car-sharing and just go with Uber and some people will use both.”

Evo Car Share and car2go are not concerned about Uber’s presence

Car2go is one of Vancouver’s leading car-share companies.  (car2go)

The executives  of both Evo and car2go do not see an overlap between ride-hailing and car-sharing.

“Comparing car-sharing and ride-hailing programs is like comparing apples to oranges – they are different and fulfill different transportation needs,” said Chris Luvancigh, car2go’s Vancouver general manager.

“Car2go works in conjunction with other transportation options to provide a good mobility mix,” he added.

While Tai Silvey, the director of Evo, agrees that Uber will not overlap with the car-sharing, he also said that Evo offers a unique experience that helps the company stand out.

“We’ve really designed the service to meet a B.C. lifestyle so we have a vehicle that is the most fuel-efficient hybrid on the market [and] it’s equipped with ski racks and bike racks. We think that offering fits very nicely into the needs of Vancouverites.”

Tai Silvey, the director of Evo Car Share, said he doesn’t expect much impact from Uber. (Evo Car Share)

Metro Vancouver residents say car-sharing does not meet their needs

While car-sharing companies aren’t concerned about Uber’s presence, residents of Greater Vancouver say they are ready to ditch the service for Uber.

“Every time I come downtown, it’s a problem. The car2go service and Evo is very downtown-centric. You have to drop it off in one of the random locations downtown. So that in itself has absolutely no value for me,” said Vikram Khalsi, a resident of Surrey.

Khalsi added that he is also not served by the taxi system.

“Taxis are a problem to get. I’ve stopped going downtown because every time I go, every single time, it’s a problem getting home. Nobody wants to take us to Surrey. That’s why I want something like Uber here.”

Vikram Khalsi pays for parking in downtown Vancouver as he talks about looking forward to Uber’s arrival.

Some believe that Uber may change the way they commute altogether.

Dave Cook lives in Vancouver and heavily relies on car-sharing to get around. However, he believes that Uber’s presence will pull him away from the car-sharing industry.

“I will probably stop using car-sharing for shorter trips. Depending on price I might stop using car-sharing all together,” says Cook, “Uber will remove the need for many cars on the road and staying downtown.”

The Liberal Party of B.C.’s perspective

According to James Lombardi, the B.C. Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey,

“British Columbians have made it clear that they want more choice when it comes to transportation.”

“We’ve seen issues arise in other jurisdictions that have rushed to incorporate ride-hailing too quickly.”  That’s why, he said, the party has already begun “extensive consultation[s] with all stakeholders before [it] finalize[s] the plan.”

“As an avid car-share user myself, I completely appreciate [its] convenience and value,” Lombardi said.

However, introducing Uber would not only provide more transport options, but also increase the growth of Vancouver’s economy.

“At the end of the day, ride-hailing and car-sharing are both good for our economy and good for our environment.”

Vancouver last to join the movement

According to a petition to bring Uber to B.C., Metro Vancouver is the largest metropolitan area in North America without ride-hailing. Uber has been introduced to cities across Canada for the last five years. Vancouver, however, is late to the game due to previous governmental support of the taxi industry.

Many of these cities have Uber and car-sharing and, because of the density of these cities and different needs of consumers, both programs have been able to thrive.

Currently, there are 14 cities in Canada that have Uber. Each of these cities also has varying numbers of car-sharing programs. The slideshow below demonstrates the competition between the two in each city’s transportation market.