Winner of FCM’s 2022 Sustainable Communities Awards' climate change mitigation category
In an effort to reduce GHG emissions from transportation and provide more equitable transport options, a group of municipalities in the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region together with transit organization RÉGÎM have teamed up to create TCiTé. This shared mobility project is aimed at reducing the need for private vehicles by using Mobility as a Service (MaaS) technology to offer electric car and bike sharing, taxi services and other transport options, and includes municipal purchase of EVs. Thus far, the project has shown promise as a means of reducing emissions and fuel costs while promoting electrification and more communal means of transportation.
Located in Atlantic Quebec, the Gaspé Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands make up a single administrative region that has a relatively small population of about 90,000 spread out across more than 20,000 square kilometres. The majority of residents live more than three kilometres from essential services such as grocery stores and health care providers. This region, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, is served by the transportation organization RÉGÎM, which operates a number of public transit routes as well as accessible transport options.
Despite the prevalence of private vehicles in the region, there is still demand for transportation alternatives, not only to lower greenhouse gas emissions but also to offer options to people who cannot or prefer not to get around with their own car: think youth, seniors, lower-income residents and people who are unable to drive.
To help serve this population and reduce the region’s carbon footprint, RÉGÎM and a group of local municipalities —Gaspé, Carleton-sur-Mer, Chandler, Grande-Rivière, Maria, and Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine — were looking for innovative solutions to expand their sustainable transportation offerings and reduce the need for private vehicles while also strengthening the community.
In 2019, the group launched the transportation project TCiTé. The goal was to find ways to make the region’s transportation options more sustainable. One major aspect of this was the intention to lower the region’s GHG emissions from transportation, but they also had in mind energizing and revitalizing communities and town centres. An additional hope is that reducing the need for and use of individual vehicles will help increase disposable incomes and, therefore, enrich communities.
After performing feasibility studies, the group decided to launch a pilot quickly to increase transportation availability within the region. Finding ways to use technology to make the whole system smarter was a high priority, as was a focus on the sharing economy and electrification. The plan included:
- Adding EVs to municipal fleets;
- Optimizing and electrifying public transit;
- Installing EV charging and other necessary infrastructure;
- Developing digital tools (Mobility as a Service, or MaaS) to help residents and staff use, optimize and coordinate various means of transport; and
- Developing and promoting car sharing, carpooling, taxi and Uber-style services, and active means of transportation such as electric bikes.
Municipalities purchased 10 EVs as well as related infrastructure in 2019. This was a key part of the plan for a number of reasons:
- Having municipal staff and elected officials use an EV when possible rather than a gas-powered truck would directly lower employees’ GHG emissions.
- These vehicles would serve as a model for community members curious about EVs, and showcase their suitability for the region and municipalities’ readiness to support them.
- Municipal EVs would be made available during off hours (generally, during evenings and weekends) to community members as part of the TCiTé car-sharing service at a cost of $7 per hour.
The EVs were equipped with an information module to track things like battery level, charging status and current location, and to allow for access via RFID cards rather than keys. Each participating municipality also built its own version of an electric service station, a hub that offers EV charging as well as other amenities such as bus shelters, bicycle racks and community-owned electric bikes.
The municipal-RÉGÎM collaboration allowed for shared responsibility in a way that preempted potential challenges. For instance, while municipal offices tend to be closed on evenings and weekends, the transportation organization was already operating during those times. This made them the natural fit to oversee relationships with EV users from the community at large.
One major challenge in implementation was persuading employees accustomed to using pick-up trucks for everything, or to using their own vehicles for work-related trips, that they should use EVs instead when appropriate. Education about using “the right vehicle for the right job” was helpful to encourage staff to make the switch.
An additional barrier was related to vehicle insurance. Municipalities had to convince insurers to extend coverage on the EVs so that it would encompass car sharing.
The 10 EVs purchased have had a direct impact on communities’ environmental impact: using an EVs rather than a gas-powered vehicle reduces emissions of a single vehicle by an estimated 95 percent. Participating municipalities have seen lower fuel consumption and vehicle wear and tear: estimates show that replacing gas-powered vehicles with EVs could result in savings of up to 84 percent in fuel costs.
Between June 2021 and March 2022, 175 users made a total of 300 reservations; these users were both internal (employees and elected officials) and external (community members).
The car sharing program offers a number of benefits:
- Fleet usage by external users during evenings and weekends is a revenue opportunity for municipalities.
- Letting community members rent vehicles on an hourly basis gives them the chance to try out an EV and might increase their motivation to buy one themselves when it comes time to replace their current vehicle.
- The management and reservation system that was developed to handle the car sharing program can be used by other organizations.
In addition, the TCiTé program overall has had and will have numerous benefits for the community, including:
- Reducing personal vehicle use and maintenance.
- Promoting safe travel for all, keeping equity in mind.
- Energizing and reviving regional communities.
- Providing communities with affordable public transit.
- Implementing electric charging stations that will serve as “rest stops” and tourist attractions.
- Connecting cities and smaller municipalities by creating EV travel routes.
- Reducing transportation costs and helping workers who don’t own a vehicle.
An important part of this project has been communication and raising awareness. Partners have learned that there is no such thing as too much training and information. One aspect of this, for instance, is that users who sign up for car sharing are given an information package with everything they need to know, and the team created an FAQ to help customer service staff provide answers to common questions.
The group has realized that elected officials and municipal employees are highly visible members of the community and, as such, the ways they choose to get around are influential. Encouraging these groups to be active participants in transportation projects such as TCiTé both sets an example and helps reinforce a sense of community ownership.
Another key aspect of this project was experimentation and agility. Partners weren’t sure out of the gate how staff and community members would use the EVs, and made sure to be open to different modes as usage took off. For instance, they began with an hourly rental rate but quickly realized that some users wanted to borrow a vehicle for an entire day, so they adapted by also offering a daily rate.
Project partners are pleased with the results thus far and sustainable transportation continues to be part of decision-makers’ long-term vision. Future goals include:
- Increasing the number and variety of available vehicles.
- Working with more interested municipalities to include EV purchases for car-sharing in their budgets.
- Continuing to promote the sharing economy within the public sector.
When it comes to electrification in particular, RÉGÎM has decided it would like to switch its entire transportation network to electric not only for environmental reasons, but for economic and social ones as well.
Want to explore all GMF-funded projects? Check out the Projects Database for a complete overview of funded projects and get inspired by municipalities of all sizes, across Canada.