Pan-Canadian Perspectives: Regulating car-sharing in Regina

Editor’s Note: This week, the PPGR is publishing commentary articles from public policy and public administration students at universities across Canada. This Pan-Canadian Perspectives series is meant to highlight voices from coast to coast, addressing diverse issues of local and national importance. This article, from Anna Lozhkina at the University of Regina, considers how city councils should regulate car-sharing — an issue of interest to many cities across the country.

by Anna Lozhkina

Car sharing refers to the shared use of a car or fleet of cars by multiple users. Drivers might recognize car-sharing company names like Car2Go, Zipcar, Modo, and Evo; a local example in Regina is the Regina Car Share Co-operative. Nowadays, new car-sharing services are challenging traditional regulatory approaches as the private sector, rather than municipal and provincial governments, is driving implementation. In 2017, Canada had 20 car-sharing services with more than 336,000 members and more than 5,200 vehicles. Research shows that households can save between $154-435 (U.S.) a month after joining a car share.

Regina is one example of a Canadian city where car-share services present questions of how and why municipal governments should be involved in regulation. The average number of cars per household in Saskatchewan is higher than the Canadian average. The population of Regina is growing at twice the rate of the Canadian average. With population growth and a car-heavy culture increasing demand in Regina, car-share services are becoming increasingly popular in the city. As the local government is responsible for providing accessible transportation options for the community, it can help integrate car sharing with public transportation and come up with a regulatory framework to regulate the industry.

Benefits of car sharing

Car sharing has several benefits. First, it’s more efficient: the services help reduce household car ownership and vehicle miles traveled, prevent traffic congestion, and lead to higher efficiency in vehicle use because of more usage per car day. Second, car sharing increases transportation options for those who are least likely to own a car. Third, reduced household transportation cost means people have more money to spend on housing, addressing affordability issues. Fourth, car sharing promotes community cohesion through membership. Finally, car-sharing services lead to reduced use and dependence on fossil fuels through fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gases and emission.

Rationale for regulation by the city council

The Saskatchewan government gives municipalities the authority to regulate vehicles for commercial use, including car sharing, rentals, and taxis, and has introduced legislation which paves the way for ride-booking services to operate in the province. But municipal governments have reason to act as well. Cities run transit systems and build roadway infrastructure, and often look for ways to reduce strain and increase the efficiency of transportation systems. Municipal governments also have a role to play in reducing geographic or economic constraints, ensuring accurate pricing of services, and addressing environmental concerns for the health of their residents.

Stakeholders’ perspectives and engagement

To communicate and promote car sharing services, the perspectives of different interest groups should be considered. For the taxi industry, changes in transportation dynamics will create uncertainty; however, taxi usage is unlikely to decline because of car-sharing. For residents living in high density neighbourhoods, car sharing will reduce the number of needed parking stalls. Moreover, low-income drivers will benefit from affordable access to vehicles. Private car rental companies will have an opportunity in the car share market and have to adapt to changes in demand for traditional car rentals. Automakers may cooperate with car-share companies to scale up quickly and gain market share, find ways to access the platform and attract new customers, and strengthen relationships with leading manufacturers to cooperate on new purpose-built vehicles. Car-share companies should clearly define their different business models so policymakers can craft relevant policy frameworks.

Suggestions for Regina City Council

Overall, increased car-sharing will bring benefits to Regina. It will supplement public transit options, help to reduce household transportation costs, ease traffic congestion, lower car ownership rates, and reduce carbon emissions. There are a number of policy suggestions that Regina City Council should consider. The council should promote affordable, convenient, and integrated transportation choices by creating specific car-sharing parking spots and promoting car-sharing as an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.The city council should follow the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) regulations and could establish a limit of free-floating car-share parking permits to 50 per car-share company, issuing a maximum of 200 permits in total for the pilot project.

Council should also establish environmental goals, including emissions reductions, and consider car-charing as a way to meet these goals. In particular, fewer cars on the road could lead to a reduced impact from pollution on air and water quality.

Because of the benefits car-sharing brings, city councils and private businesses should take an active role in supporting car-sharing companies. Revenue guarantees offer an opportunity to encourage car-sharing through shared risk. The city could support new car-share companies in Regina by covering the difference between member fees and the estimated cost per month of providing the vehicle, ramping down revenue guarantees as membership grows and the industry can support itself. Alternatively, building owners could provide a revenue guarantee to car-sharing companies in exchange for having vehicles on site and/or offering tenants’ exclusive use during certain hours.

Downtown Regina

Anna Lozhkina is currently obtaining a Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the University of Regina. Her research interests mainly focus on sustainability and she regularly participates in meetings with the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise. Anna holds a professional certificate from Harvard University, certificates of academic and research programs from Queen’s University and the State University of New York, and a bachelor degree of public administration from St. Petersburg State University. Anna became a winner of international research congresses and conferences and worked in research labs in Canada and New York.