Thursday, December 27, 2012

#FreeAdvice for Co-op Atlantic

This giving season, I'm extending some of my creativity toward a business that helps to build strong Eastern Canadian communities. Co-op Atlantic is a multi-pronged cooperative, job creator, and community investor with members and businesses from Quebec to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Right now, Halifax is the only Atlantic Canadian city with a car sharing program (info here). The remaining Atlantic urban areas are under-saturated for similar services. I won't claim this observation is novel; the Moncton Free Press featured a post suggesting a car sharing program could flourish in the Greater Moncton Area. I agree entirely, and I have a suggestion on how create such a service.

Co-op Atlantic is ideally situated to take on such a project. Co-op Atlantic is already a membership-based organization with extensive networks across Eastern Canada. Further, the Co-op already owns and operates fuel dispensaries. Acquiring a fleet of vehicles and offering their short term use to members is an effective way to meet many social and economic goals.

Foremost, car sharing programs dramatically increase the utility of public transit. The compliment of occasional low-cost car use to public transit increases the prospect of fewer cars on the road, a move that will result in savings in road maintenance and respiratory health costs.

The complimentary relationship between public transit and car sharing services in larger Canadian cities has manifested in joint promotions and incentives for subscription to both services. As fuel costs soar and the Harper government introduces new emissions standards that will drive up new car prices, personal vehicle ownership is becoming increasingly unrealistic. Bolstering public transit and encouraging car sharing are means to ensure that quality of life in Atlantic Canada does not decline alongside the rate of personal vehicle ownership.

Perhaps Co-op Atlantic's most competitive advantage in creating a car-sharing program is their vast regional networks. If Co-op were to create an inter-provincial network of car sharing offices, retail and tourism industries would share in the benefits of a mobile population. Imagine being able to take a bus to Halifax or PEI and using a Co-op vehicle for the same rate as at home.

I hope that the Atlantic premiers and the leadership of Co-op Atlantic can agree that pairing robust public transit services and car sharing is a responsible way to develop the region.  If we hope to create an economy entrenched in equity and environmental wisdom, affordable and effective transit must be achieved.


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