Car co op could cure transportation woes

A car co-operative may soon hit the streets of Whitehorse to help ease the transportation crunch for low-income earners. The Whitehorse Climate Car Co-operative registered as a nonprofit society this month and its organizers have begun polling to gauge interest in the idea.

A car co-operative may soon hit the streets of Whitehorse to help ease the transportation crunch for low-income earners.

The Whitehorse Climate Car Co-operative registered as a nonprofit society this month and its organizers have begun polling to gauge interest in the idea.

The co-op’s first meeting, held last night at the Whitehorse Public Library, had only a half-dozen people in attendance.

“It’s Rendezvous,” said Christina Sim, one of the co-op’s organizers.

But nearly a dozen people e-mailed Sim to say they were interested but couldn’t make it because of the festivities.

“We were hoping someone was going to drop by and give us a ride,” said Dean Faragher, Sim’s husband.

The couple live in Riverdale with their children. It’s a hassle to organize family trips to the Yukon Arts Centre or to the Canada Games Centre without a car, they said.

Taxis are expensive and companies can’t guarantee a nonsmoking vehicle. Whitehorse’s transit system is woefully unreliable.

“I can see (the co-op) being used for small trips too,” said Laird Herbert, another organizer.

The Yukon’s campgrounds and hiking trails are somewhat inaccessible for car-less people living in Whitehorse. A car co-operative would provide a cheap alternative to renting cars for a three-day trip to Haines, Alaska, for example.

The organizers contacted the Nelson Car Share in British Columbia for information and are now modelling their plans on the town’s co-operative model.

Nelson Car Share is known as the cheapest in North America, and Yukon organizers are hoping their prices can be even lower.

“We’ll take the title after they give us all their information,” said Herbert, with a laugh.

Two people have already told Sim that they’d be interested in selling their cars to the co-op. The organizers are also looking for a camper or trailer and a utility wood truck.

“There’s been huge interest in (the truck) for families who might want to go chop their own wood,” said Sim.

Under the business model, the co-op would own several vehicles and take out an insurance policy. Members would pay a $500 deductible if they had an accident. The insurance would be paid by fees gathered for per-kilometre usage and the amount of time the car is used.

There will be different membership prices depending on someone’s use of the service. There may also be an option for people to jointly buy a car but register it with the co-op to benefit from the insurance, said Sim.

There are 10 car co-ops in Canada, but the biggest explosion in recent years has been the for-profit car share business. There are 48,000 people registered as members of for-profit car co-ops in North America, with a total fleet of 1,700 cars in 15 cities, said Sim.

There’s no interest in going for-profit here, but their popularity indicates that people are looking for alternatives to owning cars or using public transport.

The co-op will likely link up with Outside co-ops, a common practice for car shares. That means a member in Whitehorse could visit Vancouver and use a car from a co-op in that city.

The co-op is currently searching for five directors to help launch the nonprofit, and another meeting will be held in the next 10 days. Anyone interested in joining the co-op can e-mail whitehorsecarcoop@yahoo.ca.

Not having a car can restrict single-parent, low-income families to their homes and prevent them from being involved in the community.

“We really want to address social isolation,” said Sim.

Other groups, such as the elderly, also suffer from social isolation and could benefit from the co-op service, she said.

The group is currently seeking funding from the Yukon government but is unsure whether the project is eligible.

“We still have to fine-tune everything,” said Sim.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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