COMMUNITY CARS The Kootenay Carshare in Nelson boasts a sizable fleet of shared vehicles. Photo by Kootenay Carshare

COMMUNITY CARS The Kootenay Carshare in Nelson boasts a sizable fleet of shared vehicles. Photo by Kootenay Carshare

By Greg Amos

Special to The Pioneer

After an initial information session held at the Invermere Community Greenhouse on Thursday, April 24th, the proposed Columbia Valley car or truck share is revving up for the next step.

A market survey will take place over the summer, with the goal of finding enough people interested in participating to make a vehicle-share co-operative be financially sustainable.

Some car shares thrive on two or three really heavy users of the system; other car shares have failed even with as many as 20 casual users, said Groundswell Network Society acting executive director Bill Swan. It comes down to a core group and frequency of use, supported by a larger group of infrequent users.

This summers investigative process will be funded with $4,000 from the Kootenay Conservation Program, with Groundswell offering an in-kind contribution by volunteering some of the administrative work involved.

While attendance at the April session was low, about 15 people have expressed a serious interest in a local car share, said Mr. Swan. According to Kootenay Carshare executive director Colleen Matte, who travelled from Nelson to Invermere to deliver the details at the session, a business plan to build the car share would need to target at least ten strong memberships to get the idea running in the Columbia Valley.

The Kootenay Carshare currently has about 200 members sharing 19 vehicles in several Kootenay communities, including Kimberley (where members share a 2004 Ford truck and a car) and Fernie.

About a quarter of all car share members drop their second vehicle, noted Mr. Swan.

Groundswell has to really investigate the full level of commitment by people before it jumps in, he said. Were not out to make a huge profit from running a car share; its more about fitting the mission of the organization.

A vehicle share a concept by which the use of and operational costs of a car or truck are shared by several part-owners cant be run as a loss, so the cost of administering such a program is normally built into a membership fee, said Mr. Swan.

There are some other ways to finance the vehicles, he added. In addition to their purchase share, car co-op members can also put in additional dollars that go towards the purchase of the vehicles, and they get paid an interest rate on their investment in the capitalization of the fleet. So you might get two or three per cent on an extra $500 you put in. It becomes like community micro-financing, and those kind of models are gaining a lot of steam.

Vehicles typically used in a car share are not new, but successful programs have avoided using vehicles that are too old, said Mr. Swan.

The average Canadian spends $7,500 per year on gas, repairs and maintenance for their vehicle.

Those interested can learn more by contacting Groundswell at info@groundswellnetwork.ca , using the subject line car share in the email.