Car sharing: a solution to greenhouse gas emissions?

In Canada, cars produced more than 70 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2007, an increase of 35% since 1990.

This increase, however, takes into account the contribution of car sharing to improving the environmental balance sheet, according to the conclusions of research carried out by the project team "Accès à la Cité" directed by Marius Thériault, research professor with the École supérieure d'aménagement du territoire et de développement régional at Université Laval.

Communauto subscribers are more aware of the real costs of a car.

In 2009, graduate student Louis Alexandre conducted an Internet survey of 57 Communauto subscribers in Quebec, taking note of all trips taken during a one-week period. Their transportation behaviour was then compared with that of 122 car owners living in the same neighbourhoods.

The results of this research show that greenhouse gas emissions are up to four times lower among car sharing subscribers. What can explain this difference? Communauto subscribers are more aware of the real costs of a car, charged per hour and according to the distance travelled, and tend to favour active (walking, biking) and collective means of transportation.

The data obtained is relevant: Communauto subscribers walk more (37%) than car owners (14%), take the bus more (25%, compared with 3%) and use a car less frequently (24% versus 78%). These differences can be seen in both downtown and suburban areas.

Thériault observes that if car sharing were more widespread in Quebec, the potential improvement in the province's environmental performance and increase in active transportation would be promising.

These conclusions, integrated into the submission filed by the Centre de recherche en aménagement et développement during consultations in Quebec City, could lead to better promotion of car sharing and active transportation in the Capital City and elsewhere across the province.