Cabbin’ Fever: A guide to the city’s best vehicles for hire
Nobody owns a car anymore. Well, okay, some people own cars, but they’re an endangered bunch, at least south of Bloor. As millennials snatch up condos in the core at a staggering rate (downtown’s population has grown by 20 per cent in the last 10 years), the rite of auto ownership, once a milestone commensurate with getting hitched or having kids, has slipped right off the priority list. When walking’s not an option, urban families are availing themselves of Uber rides, car-share subscriptions and other swipe-and-go services that make sense in a city where it’s sometimes tricky to move your arms, let alone parallel park an SUV. In fact, last spring, a new build on University Avenue became Toronto’s first parking-free condo building. In place of a sprawling concrete crypt, it has a handful of dedicated car-share slips—a fact that didn’t prevent 85 per cent of the units from selling out in nine days. The latest A-to-B options make going carless cheaper and easier than ever—provided you know when and how to use them. Here, a guide to the perfect ride for every type of traveller.
Who wants to lug a two-four home on the streetcar? AutoShare is great for weekday transit users with giant weekend to-do lists. There are more than 175 pickup spots in the city—60 in condo parking garages—so members rarely have to hike far to find a Fiat for their grocery run or a truck big enough to haul a set of Billy bookcases. Autoshare.com.
Most popular plan: $29 sign-up fee, $45 monthly payment and hourly fees starting at $9.25.
The Uber app charges fares (plus tips) straight to customers’ credit cards, making each transaction blissfully easy. Of the available tiers of service, Uber Black is the fanciest: leather seats, professionally licensed chauffeurs and, in some cases, complimentary breath mints and chilled bottled water. Uber.com.
5-km fare: $28.
Car2Go’s adorkable Smart cars can be puttered between 150 Green P lots dotted from Jane Street to Victoria Park and Eglinton to the lake, for less than 50 cents a minute. Car2go.com.
Cost: $35 sign-up fee, then $0.41 a minute, $15 an hour or $85 a day.
UberX launched last fall, to the total dismay of Toronto taxi regulators. Drivers don’t have to be pros, so there’s no saying who’ll show up: a seasoned ex-chauffeur or a regular Joe with no sense of direction. Still, it’s one of the cheapest rides in town—assuming fares haven’t doubled (when demand is high, Uber hikes its prices). Uber.com.
5-km fare: $12.50.
BikeShare, the outfit formerly known as Bixi, maintains 80 downtown stations stocked with sturdy black cycles. Best for leisurely jaunts—the clunky bikes weren’t designed for speed. Bikesharetoronto.com.
Cost: $18 per month. The first 30 minutes of each ride are free; after that, prices increase from $1.50 to $7 per half hour.
Since landing in Toronto almost a decade ago, Zipcar has inundated the city with its coupes, hybrids and other errand-running options. There are more than 200 depots in the GTA, making Zip a great get-around-town car. Big bonus: travellers can use their memberships in 43 U.S. states, plus Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid and Vienna. Zipcar.ca.
Most popular plan: $65 annual membership and hourly fees starting at $9.25.
Underappreciated fact: the Uber app can be used to hail and pay for regular cabs (Beck, Royal, Crown, etc.). Going with Uber Taxi guarantees fixed rates, but Uber automatically tacks on a presumptuous 20 per cent tip. If that seems extortionate, the pre-set percentage can be adjusted online. Uber.com.
5-km fare: $18.
When one post-work G&T snowballs into six, Drink and Dial’s designated-drivers-for-hire will show up anywhere in the GTA and ferry customers home in their own cars. It’s pricy but worth the splurge to avoid a hungover car-retrieving mission. 1-855-533-3425, drinkanddial.ca.
Cost: $80 for 20 km, then $2 per klick.