Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why should I fill in a survey about car clubs?

You may be wondering why Transition Cambridge now has a project (CleanWheels) promoting transport by car - and asking you to fill in a survey about it. Aren’t we supposed to avoid travelling by car completely? Public transport, cycling and walking have less carbon emissions than cars and have other advantages to. So what is going on?

Car clubs are obviously not a complete solution for sustainable travel – but we think they are an important part of one. The thing is, sometimes public transport just isn’t practical and the best option is a car. With a car club you can hire a car cheaply when you really need one, without the temptation to use it all the time.

Obviously there are disadvantages to not having your own car, but there are advantages too.

  • You will have a range of different cars available, and you can choose the best one for each trip.
  • It saves hassle; you don’t have to spend hours shopping around to find a suitable car to buy, and then find the best insurance, and then get it fixed whenever it has a problem.
  • You won’t have to drive around for ages to find a parking place; club cars have reserved bays
  • You can afford a nicer car than you might be able to buy.
  • It saves money if you don’t need to use it too much.
  • It reduces financial risk; if you buy your own car there is a risk it will be a dud and need lots of maintenance.

Costs vary obviously. But having your own car can easily cost £2000-£3000/year in servicing, insurance and depreciation costs. A car club might cost you £60/year and then £6/hour or £40/day (see the FAQ for example pricing). For £2000 you could afford a club car 50 whole days in the year!

The sustainability advantages are varied too.

  • Club cars are generally fairly new and less polluting than older cars. Ideally, we’d like them to be electric or at least hybrid too, to reduce air pollution even more. This benefits everyone’s health right now, and as the electricity grid shifts to renewables the carbon savings increase too. Electric cars are expensive to buy but they are affordable to hire from a car club.
  • It takes cars off the road. In London, surveys of car club users have shown that each club car replaces around 6 private cars on the road (see FAQ). That means there is more space on the road for people, for trees, and spaces for children to play.
  • Car clubs increase the market for public transport. This may sound odd, but car owners rarely use public transport while car club members do. New members change their travel habits, switching from cars to walking, buses and trains (from the CarPlus annual report)

Cambridge already has a car club – Zipcar. You can read what Anna says about being a member here. But Zipcar in Cambridge doesn’t seem to be growing much. The city and county councils are reviewing the contracts for renting out car club bays right now, hence our survey. We want to collect evidence to show where the most growth potential is, so where we need more bays. Also we’d like to see how much demand would increase if electric and hybrid cars were available.

So please fill in our survey now. It only takes a few minutes! Even if we haven’t convinced you that car clubs have a place in your life right now, we’d like to hear your views.

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