Car sharing programs within the City of Sydney have been highly popular since the first operators started, with Council support, in 2007. Recently I recieved an email from a Sydney resident who was one of many who found car sharing to be a convinient and sustainable lifestyle choice. She is moving to Tasmania, where no car sharing programs currently operate, and she asked me to write to the Greens Minister for Sustainable Transport Nick McKim to encourage him to look into the adoption of car share in Tasmania.
Below is some information on car sharing that I sent to Nick McKim. I touched on the history of car sharing in the City of Sydney and highlighted the benefits it could have for communities in Tasmania and elsewhere.
Car sharing in the City of Sydney
The first step towards the City of Sydney (CoS) supporting car share programs came in 2004 when I put forward a motion, which was supporteded unanimously, that the City enter into discussions with the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) about the possibility of assigning parking spaces as ‘car share only’.
Discussions with the RTA were long and drawn out and it was not until 2007 that a set of guidelines were produced, based mostly on the City’s submission on the issue. By this point, the City had resolved to allocate 12 on-street and 10 off-street parking spaces to car share operators. The precedent set by CoS may make the process of negotiating with traffic management authorities quicker and easier for other Councils in the future.
At the same time as the release of the guidelines Expressions of Interest were called for from car share operators to use these spaces rent free on a trial basis over two years. The EoI request also invited operators to apply for additional parking spaces for use over the period of the trial. Three operators submitted EoIs and the City endorsed all three. Between them, the three companies requested access to 90 car spaces and the City granted this request.
The car share companies currently operating with the endorsement of CoS are:
The trial was a great success, as shown in this report to Council. By the time the City reported back on the results in October 2010 there were now 190 spaces allocated to car share vehicles throughout the City. Over 4000 individuals and over 500 businesses in the CoS Local Government Area were members of a car sharing program. By conservative estimates 550 cars had been taken off the roads. Around 180 new members are signing up to the program each month. The City’s draft policy on car sharing is now on display here for public comment.
The existence of an effective car sharing program has a range of benefits including:
Car share vehicles are generally newer and better maintained than private vehicles. A North American study compared the cars used by members of car share programs with cars those users had previously owned and found that on average the car share vehicles were over 4 km/L more efficient than the old private ones.
Sponsorship of the program means that additional environmental standards can be mandated – in its draft car sharing policy CoS requires all car share vehicles that occupy City owned parking spaces be of at least a 4-star rating according to the Australian Green Vehicle Guide.
Government support for a car share scheme also allows the government to encourage other innovative technologies - the City has recently installed Australia’s first public electric car charging station, powered by 100% green power, in response to an electric vehicle being added to the fleet of one of the car share operators. The City has plans to install sufficient photovoltaic energy generation capacity to provide genuine renewable electricity to an expanded fleet of electric vehicles in the future.
Not owning a car makes people think before driving – they only drive when a car is absolutely necessary and look for alternative options at other times, e.g they are more likely to walk for incidental trips like shopping than people who privately own cars. Membership of a car sharing scheme does not compete with public transport use as private car ownership does – people who own a car will often use the car in preference to paying for public transport in order to ‘get their money’s worth’ or because of the increased convenience.
Lower demand for cars also means less energy and resources consumed in car production – on average the manufacturing of a car produces the same amount of emissions as driving the car over the course of its lifetime.
It has been estimated that each share car removes 8-13 privately owned vehicles from the roads, depending on level of use. As well as the obvious benefits, less cars on the road improves traffic flow, meaning that cars on the road are running for less time and traffic is less stop start and therefore cars are able to run more efficiently.
The more people who use car share programs rather than owning their own car the less space needs to be taken up for roads and parking spots. This leads to more land being available for community purposes, such as bike paths or light rail lines.
Membership of a car share program allows people who choose to use sustainable forms of transport the peace of mind of knowing that they have access to a car for situations where there is no other option.
CoS draft policy requires that cars be available for 95% of bookings made at least 2 hours in advance, meaning that the level of convenience is high. The bigger a car share program gets the more convenient it becomes.
For people who use cars only occasionally (drive less than 7000 km per year), membership of a car share program is cheaper than car ownership.
The same applies to businesses. Businesses that require the use of a car only occasionally may also be more inclined to establish themselves in areas with low levels of parking if they can join a car share program. This could potentially reinvigorate certain areas that are having trouble attracting businesses due to lack of parking.
North American studies have shown that membership of a car share program often prevents households from buying a second car.
Some Universities in the USA run car share programs for their students. Allowing student organisations to take out co-op memberships of car share programs usable by students provides cars for people on low incomes who use them only very rarely, e.g. for moving house.