The world's leading car-sharing network, Zipcar, has launched in Whistler.
Two Hyundai Zipcars are now available for reservation by the hour or by the day. The Santa Fe, named "Donatello," is located in the advanced parking lot at the Whistler Peak Lodge, while the Elantra GT, named "Isabelle," which comes equipped with bike and ski racks, is located at the Aava Whistler Hotel.
Catherine Williams, Zipcar's marketing manager for Western Canada, said there were "many reasons" to bring the car-sharing service to Whistler.
"I know housing is very difficult to come by (in Whistler), so when it comes to whether or not to own a vehicle, people will obviously choose a roof over their head over a car," she said. "Given the number of local residents who rely heavily on the bus system yet sometimes need a vehicle, we're giving them that option that they've never had."
Zipcar members pay a $7 monthly or $70 annual membership fee in addition to car-reservation fees, which include gas, insurance and 200 kilometres of driving per day. For a limited time, Whistlerites can get half off a yearly membership along with a $30 driving credit by registering at zipcar.com/whistler.
Councillor and RideBooker CEO Jack Crompton sees car sharing as a small but important piece of Whistler's efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.
"I think a multi-pronged approach will be required, but (passenger vehicles) are the single most important contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so we actually have to address that," he said. Nearly 60 per cent of Whistler's greenhouse gas emissions come from the use of passenger vehicles, and the resort has committed to cutting overall emissions by a third in the next four years.
According to Zipcar, each member reduces their personal CO2 emissions by between 1,100 and 1,600 pounds a year through the use of the service. A study by the U.S. Transportation Research Board and National Academy of Sciences also found that each shared car is equivalent to removing 13 personal vehicles off the road.
Williams said there is "absolutely" an appetite to add more Zipcars to the mix if the service goes well. A third car will also be stationed at Base 2 this winter thanks to lobbying from Whistler Blackcomb.
Whistler is no stranger to ride-sharing services both official and otherwise. The Jack Bell Foundation began operating a carpool service between the resort and Squamish way back in the early 2000s, and the Hitching the Sea to Sky Facebook page now counts more than 15,000 members.
Given the young, transient nature of the population, councillor and Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) appointee Steve Anderson said offering a service like Zipcar in Whistler just makes sense.
"We see the way it is for the younger folks in town here," he said. "If you've got a bunch of roommates and you get this Zipcar, you can take care of your chores, your refuse and group shopping, and they share the price. I can't imagine that being anything but economical for them."
While a car-sharing network has never been brought specifically to the TAG table, Anderson said there has been plenty of discussion around other facets of the sharing economy, including a bike-sharing program similar to what exists in Vancouver and other major metropolises.
"There are some constraints (to the program) that I'm sure aren't insurmountable to overcome, but they'd have to be well thought out," he added.
The Whistler cars — along with the 12,000 vehicles in Zipcar's global fleet — can be reserved online, over the phone or through the company's mobile app.