Editorial: A sharing community

Trent Ernst, Editor


I’ve been thinking about something for the last few … well, probably years now. I don’t know if it’s something that could fly here, but I thought I’d run it by youse all and see if anyone else agreed.

Last week’s editorial talked about how I like walking. It’s not the first time I’ve talked about my feelings towards non-motorized transportation, nor will it be the last.

As I’ve said in the past, this isn’t some sort of religious epiphany or hardcore commitment to never using a car again, I just like walking. I like driving, too.

But here’s the thing about driving: it’s kinda expensive.

According to the CAA Driving Cost Calculator, the average cost of owning an SUV (I own a Nissan Xterra) is about $0.63/km. The total cost per year? $12,528.

If I owned a pick-up truck, like so many people here do, the cost would be $0.67/km, or $13,454 per year.

Even a smaller compact car like a Honda Civic will run $8,828/year.

When you get down to it, that’s a fair bit of cash.

This has lead to the Globe and Mail calling vehicles “Money Pits on Wheels.”

“Cars are a voracious wealth destroyers” says the Globe. “They burn both gas and money. Behind houses, they’re a top contributor to today’s high personal debt levels and inadequate saving.”

And while it is possible to live in Tumbler Ridge and not own a vehicle, it is impossible, or nearly so, to go anywhere else without one.

There’s no public transportation from Tumbler Ridge to anywhere else. If you want to go to Dawson Creek and you don’t own a vehicle, you’ll have to walk (that would take about three days), hitch a ride with a friend or catch a taxi, which is pretty pricey in its own right.

But is there a middle ground between car ownership and car abandonment? There is, and it’s called a car cooperative.

Car cooperatives (or car co-ops for short) are where a vehicle or group of vehicles are owned communally and people book time to use the vehicle.

The benefits are obvious: owning 1/10th a car is a lot cheaper than owning all a car. And, since vehicles generally sit unused 95 percent of the time, there should be a way to maximize the amount a car is used. Then there are the environmental savings realized by keeping nine cars off the road.

The drawbacks, too, are obvious. Most people who are using vehicles are using them at the same time, so at 8:50 in the morning, demand for a vehicle will spike, whereas most people won’t want to be driving at two in the morning. The whole point of car ownership is convenience.

And this is Tumbler Ridge. When you need a vehicle, it is typically to go to Dawson for the day, effectively taking that vehicle out of commission for the whole day.

But at some point, cost should trump convenience. And I know that, with gas prices dropping nearly a third in the last few months it is less expensive to drive, but how long will that last?

So here’s the pitch. If anyone is interested in discussing setting up a car co-op program (or possibly a truck co-op, where there is one truck held in common for people to get wood or haul stuff to the dump) in Tumbler Ridge, send me an email: editor@tumblerridgenews.com. If enough people express interest, I’ll call a meeting and we can talk and see if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.