Pogo: Edmonton’s First Car-Sharing Company

Pogo car

I love Pogo. I love driving with Pogo. Pogo is good for Edmonton.

Alright, notions of  journalist objectivity now tossed aside, let me tell you about my first three months driving with Edmonton’s car-sharing service Pogo. (It’s also the three month anniversary for Pogo having cars on the road.)

As someone who doesn’t own a car, it’s been an obvious bonus to be able to grab a car if I’m running late for work, or want to get across town in a hurry. And, yes, we went to Ikea. You have to, it’s the law!

It is great to have a new option in my transportation portfolio. I ride transit, I walk, in the summer I ride my bike, I can call a taxi (ride-sharing and the Uber debate is a topic for another day), and now I can hop in a Pogo after a few clicks of a smartphone app or website. That it really is that easy makes it even better (and even a little fun).

Signing up for Pogo was easy. You do a standard contact information/login details kind of online form, slide them $35, and wait for approval within a couple of weeks. They do pull your driver’s abstract, so you’l need a (fairly) clean driving record. You get a fob or keycard in the mail and then you’re behind the wheel.

Finding a car is as easy as opening the Pogo app or website and choosing a car from a map. Cars are parked in a central zone (where all trips have to end) which encompasses areas like the downtown, Old Strathcona, 124 Street and Oliver. I’ve been lucky to always find a car within five or six blocks. For 47-cents/minute you get to drive, gas and insurance included, and can park for free (including at City meters, one and two-hour zones, and in all neighbourhoods). My only complaint is that it is easy to start driving a little too much…gotta make sure my bus pass remains worth the monthly cost!

Jeff's first Pogo
I was pretty excited to take my first drive with Pogo in November.

 

It makes sense that anyone who doesn’t own a car (or truck) would be interested in a car-share. The thing that  surprised me when grabbing coffee with Pogo co-founders Alexis Alchorn and Kieran Ryan (two of the five staffers) was that most of the other Pogo drivers have a car already.

“A large amount of our customer-base is people who already do own cars. We see that being one of our largest markets. The appeal is that you can have a car wherever you are at any time. There’s a convenience factor that really appeals to people,” Alexis said.

The convenience is allowing people to use Pogo cars instead of taking their own vehicle to work. And it could mean people can cut down to being a one-vehicle household (or none, but I know that still sounds a little weird to most Edmontonians).

Sitting down with Alexis and Kieran in early January, I was happy to hear how many Edmontonians have already signed up to car-share.

“We just passed 350. We’re pretty happy with that.” said Kieran. “Users are usually very keen on the service and telling their friends about it. And, it only gets better as more members and more cars come on.”

I mentioned that you can park pretty much anywhere you want with Pogo. It’s got a deal with the City of Edmonton where the company pays for parking and the drivers get to leave the car anywhere you can legally park. For free. This is unlike a lot of other car-sharing set-ups where vehicles have to be returned to “home base”, that is, a designated parking spot.

“The City of Edmonton has been working with us on parking,” Kieran said. “And politicians are being supportive. The City wants us to work. At all levels they like the concept, they want Edmonton to have a system like this. They’re very good working with us. We’re working with them to make sure there’s the least amount of friction on things like parking.”

I’ve noticed more Pogo cars recently with handy parking reminders stuck to the glove compartment, which will help us Pogo drivers remember where not to park and keep the tickets to a minimum (you are responsible if you get a ticket when you park the car).

There are some big car-share companies out there (Car2Go is in Calgary, ZipCar is another mainstay) but Pogo is different from those because it’s an Edmonton-based business.

As Kieran explained. “There’s five of us. We’re all local Edmontonians. I used to live in Calgary and saw a service come there and saw how successful and how convenient, and everything like that, and started talking [to another co-founder] ‘Why isn’t anybody doing it in Edmonton”‘. We started doing the research. What are the different components? And started rolling from there. Nine months from ‘Let’s think about this to handing the mayor a fob.”

Pogo's Kiernan and Alexis

Pogo has about 30 cars on the road now and wants to expand to 150 before the end of this year. They also plan on expanding “the zone” where you can park a car at the end of your trip. Some of that is dependent on how many people are signing up, where cars are being used, and where people using Pogo live. From the quick uptake, and the ease of use, I would guess those targets are going to be hit and you’re going to be seeing a lot of Pogo logos on the street.

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Questions for you, the reader of this post:

Have you used Pogo, or another car-share? Would you?

What should Pogo drivers be known as? Pogo-ers? Pogos?

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I had the pleasure of talking with Ryan Jespersen about Pogo on his radio show.
Take a listen:

2 thoughts on “Pogo: Edmonton’s First Car-Sharing Company”

  1. I suspect a lot of the “already own a car” crowd are like myself. I received my fob last week, but have yet to use it. But it’s very attractive because after the initial signup, there’s no fixed monthly cost, just usage, so there’s really no downside to having it available.

    Since I work downtown and take transit to work, the $35 fob provides me with an option for running errands or other weirdness that’s not well-served by transit, but isn’t something I have to use often (or ever) to make economical. But I don’t have regular errands that would really benefit from it. The hourly rental rate is too high to use it for any trip that involves parking outside the zone for more than a few minutes, and the zone ends too close to downtown on the NE for it to be useful for my regular trips in that direction.

    What I don’t need, though, is expansion to be closer to home. I live about 20 blocks west of the Zone, but transit is so frequent in my part of town, there’s little need for a supplemental car.

  2. I was just thinking about the low cost to entry yesterday and think you are indeed correct. Throwing down $35 for a new transportation option is a pretty good deal.

    Interesting that you don’t want the zone closer…the first couple of weeks I couldn’t get enough of parking cars in front of my place. But that’s good information for the Pogo team to use when they consider expansion, as they could shift the zone in a direction that doesn’t have as frequent major transit routes and likely see a larger regular use (although, that being said, I live in Old Strathcona and work downtown and still use it regardless of great transit frequency).

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