Car sharing could cut congestion woes

The problem
Traffic congestion is created because there are too many single occupancy car trips and too many people driving to work alone. In Toowoomba, for example, more than 70% of commuters drive to
work alone.

The solution
The solution is that we connect to enable sharing. The desire to share resources, time, skills, information, knowledge and household “stuff” was a common theme at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Berlin and New York. Let’s start small. For example, if we drive to work, we could find a colleague to carpool with for all or part of the journey on the last day of every month. This can be arranged in a couple of hours and without any financial costs. Some say we need to make sharing “normal” and to eradicate the stigma of being “poor”. Others say we need to change our community behaviours and learn how to share right now because we just won’t have time to “learn” when we are in the midst of a social, economic, financial or environmental crisis. Let’s have a go now.

 “We don’t all need to own a power drill, we all just want a hole in our wall.” Rachel Botsman

What connects us to enable sharing?

  1. Carpooling – Carpooling (or lift sharing) is when there is more than one person in a private car.
    Many car drivers drive around with three or four empty seats in their car – carpooling enables cars to be shared with other people who are travelling in the same direction. Drivers and passengers can connect to offer and search for journeys using public websites, smartphone applications and carpooling agencies. After finding a suitable match they contact each other to arrange the journey(s), costs, meeting point and other details such as space for luggage. They then meet and share their car journey as planned. There are 38 million empty car seats on the UK’s roads every rush hour.
  2. Car sharing – Car sharing allows people to access and use a shared car for personal or business use.
    Car sharing is an alternative option to owning a car or purchasing a second car. The membership scheme allows members to book a car in the vehicle fleet for a short time, unlock it with a membership card, and later return the vehicle at the end of the booking. Costs are calculated on time and trip distance. Cars are parked in neighbourhood locations, including in dedicated on-street car parking spaces, in city car parks or off-street parking spaces.
  3. Car park sharing – Sharing car parking spaces utilises unused or vacant driveways, car parks and garages.
    Smartphone apps and web-based platforms connect car drivers with convenient car parking in under-utilised spaces such as residential driveways. Originally conceived to solve the problems of traffic congestion around sports stadiums, the pre-booking technology is now used as a solution to daily traffic congestion. Some customers rent a residential driveway for 30 minutes a day while they drop their kids off at school, and commuters rent spaces in suburban church car parks to avoid city centre traffic jams.
  4. Bike sharing – Bike sharing allows people to use a public bicycle for a limited period of time. Bike sharing is a new form of public transport, designed for very short trips within a city centre. Users can purchase an annual, monthly or daily subscription. The membership subscription allows the user to release a bicycle from a bike “station”, use the bicycle, and then return it to any one of the city’s bike stations. Many of the systems use smartphone apps which allow users to locate the nearest bike station, and typically bicycles are free of charge to use for trips less than 30 minutes in length.

How does this solve the problems of traffic congestion without the expense of new roads or annoyed residents?

Cars are an important part of our daily lives and the main mode of travel in most Australian cities. The problem is, too many car trips are single-occupancy trips and people driving to work alone.

  • The average car is parked for 95% of its lifetime; the truth is that our cars cost us money when they are moving and even more when they are lying idle. Everyone wants to save money. Sharing provides an opportunity for City Leaders, councils, workplaces and individuals to save money through better utilisation of existing assets and infrastructure.
  • Carpooling could literally halve the number of cars on our roads. More than 250,000 people have joined Liftshare Australia. Between them, 40,000 fewer car trips are made every day.
  • Car sharing can reduce the demand for car parking spaces; 6,200 households belong to the City of Sydney scheme, which has led to the easing of car parking congestion and savings to residents of $21 million a year.
  • Bike sharing has the potential to help reduce the need for car or taxi travel for short trips in city centres.
  • Car park sharing eliminates drivers circling the city centre on the hunt for a car parking space and the subsequent congestion that creates, while also generating income for residents. One church near the busy King’s Cross Station in London has earned A$180,000 from car park sharing in the last three years, more than half of the church’s annual income

Benefits – Sharing isn’t easy, but the benefits include:

– fewer cars on our roads
– reduced congestion
– sharing travel and car parking costs with others
– reduced travel times
– fewer car parking problems.

If half of UK motorists received a lift just one day a week, congestion would be reduced by 10% and traffic jams by 20%.

Common mistakes
1. Thinking sharing has to happen every day: Most workplaces only encourage employees to carpool one day a week or once a fortnight.
2. Thinking sharing is inflexible: Most workplaces offer a “guaranteed ride home” with a local taxi company because employees are concerned about changes to working times/patterns.
3. Thinking sharing is unreliable: Most carpooling marketplaces have implemented online paid passenger reservations so passengers are billed even if they don’t turn up.
4. Thinking sharing is inefficient: Many workplaces have created priority and guaranteed parking for carpoolers, and many motorways have dedicated multi-occupancy lanes.
5. Thinking sharing is dangerous: To eliminate risk of crime and the obstacle of sharing a car with a stranger, many workplaces have opted for private databases, so employees only share with co-workers.

For more information or for a FREE copy of my book Decongestion. 7 steps for Mayors and other City Leaders to cut traffic congestion without the expense of new roads or annoyed residents ISBN: 9780994218735 please email me rachel (at) cyclingrachelsmith (dot) com

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