Photo: Car2Go

Believe it or not, Toronto doesn’t let cars from the Car2Go car-sharing service park on the streets. The company has spent the past few years trying to convince the city to allow on-street parking for the Smart cars. The city has basically told them to pound sand, so now Car2Go is basically telling the city to do the same by rolling out on-street parking anyway. Bold move, Car2Go.

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For car sharing to be a seamless experience, you’ve got to be able to find a car close-by, drive it to your destination, and ditch it in a nearby spot. This is called the free-float model, and it’s how Car2Go works in every other city except Toronto, where customers have had to park in special surface lots and parking garages.

Is your destination nowhere near one of those lots or parking garages? Tough luck.

Toronto’s beef is that it doesn’t want residential street-side parking clogged with little blue-and-white Smart cars, as that would make it harder for permit-paying citizens to find spots. Not to mention there’s a waiting list of people trying to get a permit, though Car2Go says its been waiting since June 2012, and that it’s even offered to pay twice the normal rate for a parking permit.

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Car2Go’s main counter-argument is that because car-sharing involves many people sharing a few cars, the program should yield less parking congestion, as cars are driven much more than your average vehicles (which are parked the majority of the day). So permit-holders shouldn’t worry about having trouble finding spots.

The car-sharing company’s argument has fallen on deaf ears, though, so Car2Go is rolling out on-street parking in Toronto without the support of city hall.

Michael Silverman, a spokesman for Car2Go North America, told Jalopnik in an email about his company’s plight to get on-street car-sharing going, and their decision to basically just go ahead with it regardless:

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...we’ve been trying to get the city to be responsive for three years to work with us on an on-street, free-float carsharing model and basically got a polite Canadian version of talk to the hand. So, last Thursday we decided to just begin our on-street service.

But Car2Go isn’t just parking their cars illegally in permit-only spots, they’re working within parking laws, even if it is a bit tricky and time-consuming.

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Many street-side parking spots in Toronto allow vehicles without permits to park for a limited amount of time, usually one or three hours. Car2Go is monitoring how long the cars sit in time-restricted spots, and sending staffers to move the vehicles before they receive tickets on the windshields.

If Car2Go doesn’t get to the car in time, they—not the customer— will pay the ticket. Silverman describes the situation further, saying:

We added headcount to our fleet support so we have people getting to cars and moving them before they go past legal time in a given space. And if a car2go was parked legally by a member and we didn’t get to it fast enough/get a ticket, so be it – we’ll pay the ticket. We’ve gotten some tickets so far and that’s part of the cost of doing business.

Car2Go says they’d really prefer to pay the city for universal permits, which override the timed-parking zones and allow for metered access. But the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee isn’t having it.

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Not yet, at least. Though it looks like city officials are at least starting to show a bit more interested in the car-sharing company.

So for now, Car2Go vehicles can’t park in metered spots, and if they stay in time-restricted spots too long, the company has to send someone out to move them. It’s a bit of a mess, but apparently it’s working out, as Car2Go has seen a 35 percent increase in rentals and a 46% reduction in parked time.

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They’ve also seen a 200 percent increase in rentals during the evening rush hour, because renters can now grab a car from the city and park it right in front of their homes.

So I guess this is a win for Car2Go and its 46,000 Toronto-area customers, even if it does mean the company has to do a bit of leg-work and pay a few tickets.