Victoria Carter: Car-share would get city moving

We should focus more on reducing the number of cars we own and hiring 'pool' vehicles and spaces.
Car sharing could reduce the number of cars on the road. Photo / Supplied via Cityhop
Car sharing could reduce the number of cars on the road. Photo / Supplied via Cityhop

Last year Auckland Transport announced an international tender for a car-share service. Chairman Lester Levy and the mayor were photographed with electric cars and talked about how they hoped that, as a result of a tender, Auckland might get 300 cars. They haven't got a single one.

In the fervour to get more electric cars on the road, are we missing the point? Sydney has more than 1000 car-share spaces thanks to its progressive mayor but Go Get, its largest car-share operator, has no electric cars. The electric car won't reduce traffic, sprawl, road accidents, red light running, parking issues and so on.

Our roads are already crowded. We need more focus on encouraging people to reduce the number of cars we own.

For businesses, using cars by the hour is safer and more economical than paying a staff member to drive their own car or get in a taxi. Keyless technology enables members to book on line and then get into cars through a card reader on cars conveniently located all over city streets and inner suburbs.

The Netherlands understands car- share. As part of its Green Deal, it's working on getting 16 million people to share 100,000 car-share cars by 2018.

At the International Carsharing Conference in Vancouver last year, transport urban planner Todd Littman explained that we need to design cities for people, not cars, that we need to rethink our ownership and consumption habits - particularly since most cars are parked for 95 per cent of the time.

Instead of buying electric cars to add to fleets, councils, council-controlled organisations and other large businesses should focus on the number of cars in their fleet and whether there is a smarter way to move people about and reduce their costs.

Local government has been slow to support or even use car share. It has not seen the obvious community and economic benefits. Progressive cities the world over have encouraged it for better use of road space, to reduce individual car ownership and to put more money back into the local economy.

Why bother owning a car for the few trips you might do every week if you can use a car by the hour? Leading cities encourage developers to include car-share and bike infrastructure.

With improved public transport options, cycleways and so on, car-share makes it possible for Aucklanders to own fewer cars. If we want more people living in the city then we need more solutions to discourage car ownership, otherwise congestion will only get worse. The drivers who car-share do us all a favour. Selling their car frees up parking and road space. They tend to bike, bus, train and walk more, which makes them healthier. Studies show they also drive significantly less than when they owned a car.

Sydney knows the economic and social benefits of an onstreet car-share space far exceed the lost parking revenue. Reducing car ownership allows households to reduce transport expenses significantly. Buildings with fewer car parks are cheaper to build - all these savings get spent locally.

The US Transportation Board says every car-share car takes 15 privately owned cars off the road. Other research shows those who use car-share reduce their driving from 10,000km a year to under 1000. Most of our cars are parked for most of the day.

If you live in the city, maybe it's time to work out the real cost of owning your car and see whether it makes sense (and dollars) to live without a car.

Former Auckland City Councillor Victoria Carter is the founder of Cityhop, a company offering cars by the hour in Auckland and Wellington.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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