Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Energy group on car sharing

Last night the energy group had a lively discussion on different kinds of car sharing, like car clubs and even community taxi schemes. If the group gets any more popular we will have to hire a room to meet in; last night we were 15 people. Fortunately Margaret's sitting room is large and has lots of chairs.

There isn't room here to cover everything but I hope to give you a flavour of what was said.

Friends can share a car to reduce costs
We started with Iain talking about how his family car shares with a friend. You can read more about it on this blog elsewhere. Sharing reduces costs. They share out the licensing and maintenance costs according to the miles they have driven. Doing it with a friend makes it very flexible. As well as regular journeys and short trips they take the car on holiday each year for a couple of weeks. Of course sometimes both households want to use the car and they have to negotiate.

Other people in the group have experiences of other kinds of car sharing - from long distance ride sharing using a national ride share app (not terribly successful in terms of number of rides shared) to giving a neighbour a lift to work or alternating drivers on regular trips. All agreed that having access to a car was crucial because the same journey by public transport might take two to four times as long, even when it was possible, and the buses stop too early in the evening.

With the SamDrive taxi service you can find yourself sharing a ride with someone who lives nearby.
We also heard about a community taxi service in Belgium called SamDrive (information coming from the brother of one of our members). It started out as a sort of school bus service but has now grown to 60 cars and 1000 members doing 200 trips or more a day. They specialise in regular trips (like the school run) and short journeys. They take unaccompanied children (as young as 5 years old) to and from school and after-school activities. They take teenagers into the city so they can have a drink and not have to drive back.  They take elderly people shopping or to hospital All trips are booked in advance and they try to combine trips where possible, so you are likely to find yourself sharing with someone you lives nearby. You can get to know people that way!

It seems that teenagers around Cambridge have separately discovered the advantages of sharing taxis to and from the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights. We believe they organise this between friends on social media (evidence from one of our number with teenage children).

In other countries, the difference between taxis and buses is blurred.
Would we be happy to ride share with a stranger? Some of us have travelled to other countries where this is the norm. In fact the difference between taxis and buses can be somewhat blurred. In Uganda you have minivans operating on fixed routes but you can hail them from anywhere, not just at designated stops and you can be set down anywhere too. Would this work in Cambridge?

Would you pay more for an electric vehicle?
With SamDrive the main claim to sustainability is ride sharing.  SamDrive currently uses conventional cars and it is unlikely to move to hybrid or electric soon. The problems are both lack of infrastructure for charging and tight profit margins.

Some people said they would be happy to pay more for an electric taxi service than a normal car.

There are not many electric taxis in Cambridge as yet but, though there is one small firm that uses only hybrid vehicles. They are called Clean Air Cars.

Car clubs and taxis mean fewer cars on the road.
Using a service such as SamDrive means your household is less likely to need a second car. This  means there are fewer cars on the road and more efficient use of those that are. Another way to avoid the need for a car of your own is to join a car club. These are great for people who can drive but only need a car occasionally, or only need a second car occasionally. They give you more independence than a taxi and are usually cheaper, though not always. There are advantages both ways. For example if you want to go somewhere for the day in a club car you would have to hire for the whole trip even though you only spend an hour or two driving. Arguably someone else could be using the car in that time. But if you went by taxi it would have to do the return journey twice and would probably be empty half the time.

Another benefit with both car clubs and taxis is that you pay as you use, which means you are less likely to travel when you don't need to or to use other means when you can. Once you have a car it is easy and relatively cheap to use it but if you have to hire every time you might cycle instead more often. When you do hire a car, you combine trips to make the most of it.

CleanWheels, a new project promoting car clubs, will be running a survey soon.
Ian and Peter told us about a new Transition Cambridge project promoting car clubs called CleanWheels.  They will be running a survey soon, to find out more about the potential demand for club cars such and where the bays should be, as well as raising awareness. You will hear about that in the news bulletin in due course.

Everyone is welcome to Transition Cambridge Energy Group meetings. I haven't fixed the date for the next one yet but it will probably be mid March, about waste and recycling.

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