WorldCarshare futures - 2004-2010 (I invite you to print to read.)
While the following is specifically focused to issues and prospects of carsharing, I thought it sufficiently interesting, timely and related to the interests of this more general transport innovations forum to share with you as well. There is some overlap on the two lists, but since this is the exception and not the rule, I can only hope that those of you who receive both postings find it sufficiently interesting to forgive my enthusiasm for this terrific transportation idea.
The Commons __ technology, economy, society__
Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara 75006 Paris, France
Tel. +331 4326 1323 Fax/Voicemail hotline: +331 5301 2896
http://www.ecoplan.org IP Videoconference: 126.96.36.199
Paris, Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Dear Creators and Friends of Carsharing,
Susan Shaheen's good note of yesterday announcing next week's TRB session carsharing makes me sincerely regret that I will not be there with you to observe and ponder both the ongoing events our what we need to do to make the break in the still all too slow pattern of penetration of this great sharing technology. I look forward to being able to follow this and invite both more formal reports and commentaries and suggestions from all involved as it happens. (Perhaps next year we can arrange to support the meeting by a low cost videoconferencing interface, but more on that in due course.)
Susan’s timely reminder moves me to share a few backed-up thoughts with you as to a few things we might be able to do more generally with our suddenly ten year old World Carshare Consortium: our collaborative sharing interface at http://worldcarshare.com that much of the time just sits here silently on the net but which is complemented and supported in other ways as well. Of these the best known to you all and most active is the @Forum interface which for better or worse is supported by YahooGroups at email@example.com (again a matter of possible future attention and improvement).
Quick background note on 2000-2003:
Over the last three years I have had my hands more than full, for the first half with my work as chair of and advisor to the splendid Stockholm Partnerships for Sustainable Cities (www.partnerships.stockholm.se/) and then over the last 18 months as interim CEO of a small Swiss technology group in an attempt to turn it around, save jobs, and place it on a firm economic footing in the globalizing economy (http://www.gs-automation.com/). With professional management now in place in Geneva and the Stockholm program on the back burner for now, I have an opportunity to get back and take a more active position in some of the other areas in which I have a long time interest, including our fine World Carshare Consortium.
Over this busy period we have been lucky to have had the active support here of Susan Shaheen offering coverage from mainly a North American perspective (as well as technology, organization in general, etc.) and Peter Markusson with all his good experience in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe (as well as his long term interest in the important “softer” (read human) side of carsharing) – who have pitched in as co-managers of this news group and helped it to tick over flawlessly while I was minding other stores. I am hopeful that even with me out of mothballs they will continue their active involvement and contributions to our good cause.
Before I cast off briefly into thoughts for the future, I should add that we have – I am proud to be able to say -- been able to provide some international coverage and give honor to carsharing projects on several occasions. One of these was in the Stockholm Partnerships awards in 2002 where a handful of leading carshare projects from America and Europe were singled out for international recognition, and then more recently in 2003 where three projects (Helsinki, Stockholm and Paris) were singled out as finalists for the Technology and Environment Award of the World Technology Network. And while you can bet that these awards did not fall out of the blue, you can also be sure that we need to see more of this in the future. People – your users, suppliers, mayors, fellow transporters and others – like to be associated with winning operations that have international recognition. So if we can help make this the case, let’s do it.
Next Steps - 2004-2010:
As we are seeing abundantly and with many variations in a fast growing number of cites around the world, carsharing is a terrific thing for people and cities to do. But we are also seeing that it takes time. Our own interest here at EcoPlan and The Commons go back to our first study of carsharing innovation in 1963-74, beginning with the old ProcoTip project here in France, quickly and long gone maybe but well worth understanding and, even, admiring for its accomplishments in its uphill battle to make a breakthrough.
Looking ahead, it’s maybe a good time to take account of our assets and potential, before we get into a more detailed discussion of possible next steps. Certainly our most important asset is this active electronic meeting place and the fact that today we have today a carefully culled (in these days of spam we actively MANAGE this site) list of close to 300 carshare activists, researchers, students, suppliers (actual and potential), city officials, planners, environmentalists, public policy specialists and more, from more than three dozen countries and representing more than 100 active carsharing projects world wide. This is a unique world wide asset, and one that we will do well to think about how to make best use of in this next round of cooperation.
Certainly one legitimate question that we might do well to ask ourselves is, are we making best use of all this knowledge and experience as resources from the perspective of carsharing as a whole? And there I think the answer is that there is still plenty of room for improvement and innovation. Here’s just one idea to get the ball rolling on other ways that we might get full value out of this asset.
You are about to start up a new carsharing operation, or would like to subject an ongoing one to intensive independent review in an affordable and time efficient manner. You could get in touch and we could set up some kind of confidential review panel for you: highly informed people with hands-on experience who could, if you get your materials before them in the proper form, provide you with expert feedback and ideas on the basis of no more than a day or two of there time. In this way for less than the price of a single car you can take some important steps toward making yours a world level operation. All too often new start-ups fail to take account of the lessons of experience, and this can have significant consequences and lead to avoidable costs and problems. It does not have to be that way.
Then there is the matter of the content and the presentation of our main web site at http://worldcarshare.com. Today it is an attractive and useful site and wide-open front door to carsharing world wide. But it is out of date and needs to be brought up to scratch in several respects. The library and @World Carshare Consortium inventory need to be brought up to date, and indeed need to be made more versatile and user friendly. (Which brings up one matter than you can’t see but the site is presently in html and we really for a number of good reasons should recast it in the far more flexible and easy to manage PHP open software.) In addition, given the speed of the world wide move to broadband, we should be making libraries of materials available in video and other useful forms that can help get the message across.
It would also be extremely useful to be able to commission timely short reports and commentaries on projects and techniques, which could then be made quickly, universally and freely available on the site. And perhaps to consider some kind of prize system or incentive for student and research projects. We would also like to see a cleaner and more efficient interface with national carsharing sites and other sources of information and activity in the field. Then too we now have the tools to make better machine translations handily available, and these should be fully integrated into what is after all a world wide, hence multi-language, multi-cultural site and source.
Finally, there is the matter of using all this knowledge, good will and potential to make carsharing work in very specific situations. Let’s see if we can find support and funding for more open carsharing events, for expert missions that can walk into your mayor’s office and make convincing presentations of why and how your city should get firmly behind this great idea.
It would be great if we could get a properly thoughtful foundation, group or individuals behind us with funds available and a feel for what can be done to advance the carshare agenda not just in one place but world wide. And an understanding that this is closer to parenting than laying more yards of concrete. In a next stage I would like to see support for a two or three year program, preferable with enough funding and flexibility to ensure that we are able to respond to the ever shifting ever developing problematique of carsharing in our cities and in our lives.
Does that give you any ideas? Evoke any thoughts or suggestions that you would like to share with us? You can be sure that we are not going to leave the matter there, but I know from experience that the real breakthroughs are going to occur when we put our heads together and come up with things that no one of us could ever has figured out on her own. So let us hear from you.
There you have it, dear friends, my best New Year’s wish to you and challenge for one more kind of sharing. Putting our competence, energy and good will together to make carsharing work not just here or there but in many places in many ways. With all the diversity and energy of the Renaissance to inspire others to join in and do better yet. Since we only live once, we might as well do it joyfully and leaving behind us a heritage for others to enjoy and build on.
With all good wishes to you and your loved ones for the years ahead,
The World Carshare Consortium at http://worldcarshare.com/
Discussion Forum: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Commons __ technology, economy, society__
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