CAR CREW  The Columbia Valley car share program is seeking 10-20 participants to get the program up and running. File photo

CAR CREW The Columbia Valley car share program is seeking 10-20 participants to get the program up and running. File photo

The Upper Columbia Valley is on the verge of its first-ever car share program.

After conducting a survey last year and getting more than 100 respondents (about 20 per cent of whom indicated strong support for a car share), the Groundswell Network Society is now looking for people to commit to the program by purchasing memberships by Friday, April 10th.

If we get enough members we intend to purchase our first vehicle and launch in early May, said Groundswell executive director Bill Swan. Weve initiated an agreement with Kootenay Carshare in which Groundswell would be the manager for Kootenay Carshares Upper Columbia Valley branch.

The program would need a minimum of 10 participants to run, although 20 is a more ideal number, according to Mr. Swan.

Were currently sitting at around seven or eight committed participants right now with a nice mix of regular and occasional users. Thats good because most successful car shares need a decent mix like that. Its also split about 50-50 between those interested in a truck and those interested in a car. We intend to have one of each, he said. Groundswell has done a fair bit on this, Kootenay Carshare has done a lot of work and weve gotten some great research done. But were not going to start it if its not going to be viable and self-sustaining. We now need private program members to step forward. We have a funder who is willing to put in the capital for the initial purchase of the vehicles, but that is also contingent on getting enough members signed up to actually run the program.

Membership for individuals costs $500, which will be returned if the individual decides to leave the co-op (although he or she must stay for at least six months). It is also possible for businesses, nonprofits, families or other multi-driver entities to join the car share co-op, although there are different fee structures for that. Those in the co-op pay a $5 monthly fee and then, when they use the car or truck, pay an hourly rate for time used as well as a per kilometre rate for distance driven.

The hourly rate drops the longer the duration of the use. For the Upper Columbia Valley car share program, the hourly rate will likely be $2.75 per hour for the first eight hours and then a dollar per hour after that, in addition to a distance charge of about 20 cents per kilometre. The truck would have higher rates.

The main benefit to joining a car share program is that it saves you a lot of money. You dont pay for gas, you dont pay insurance and you dont pay maintenance. You only pay for what you use, so youre not putting money into a vehicle that spends most of its time just sitting in your driveway, said Mr. Swan, adding a car share program also has environmental benefits since it promotes more efficient use of vehicles.

It makes sense financially, it makes sense environmentally, thats why car shares are rapidly growing, said Mr. Swan. There are a lot of advantages. Its part of the emerging sharing economy, which is making big gains.

Car share members can take out the vehicle for as little as an hour or as much as a month, with all bookings coordinated online through a website.

Although Groundswell doesnt yet know exactly what kind of car and truck the car share will have, both will be mechanically sound, clean, used vehicles, likely about six or seven years old, with less than 100,000 kilometres, according to Mr. Swan. The car will be small and fuel efficient, and the truck mid-sized.

Prospective car share members need to have a B.C. drivers licence, a three-year clean driving record and a clean credit check.

To join you need to sign a cheque (for the $500 membership fee) to Groundswell, postdated to April 10th. Cheques will only be

cashed if the program has enough people to run.

To find out more about the car share program check out groundswellnetwork.ca/carshare or contact info@groundswellnetwork.ca.