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Re: [WorldTransport Forum] Counter-thoughts on carsharing for Third World cities. Your views?

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  • Chris Bradshaw
    Eric, Thanks for bringing this provocative question/point to our attention. This will bring to two the # of Canadians responding. Lee Schipper (BTW, I know a
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 15, 2004
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      Thanks for bringing this provocative question/point to our attention.  This will bring to two the # of Canadians responding.
      Lee Schipper (BTW, I know a person by that name here in Ottawa) has raised a point that all new technologies face.  By offering a new choice, from what existing choices will it draw most of its adherents?
      In the case of carsharing, this is very much the case, as we are claiming that car sharing is a small-footprint alternative to driving; while we all know that many people who join have not owned a car in many years.
      I find that we are good at attracting people who have "been there, done it, got the T-shirt" and are ready for 'car-access-lite.'  There are people who _want_ to drive less and have organized their life (especially finding a good walkable community to live in, and eschewing the cottage life so popular in N. Am.) so that little driving is required.
      However, Schipper poses the question about how will carsharing be used by the great masses who are eager to get some car-access, somehow.  Will we provide a more accessible "stepping stone"?
      I don't think so. 
      First, our insurers don't allow people to learn to drive in carsharing clubs, and the minimum age also eliminates even those who get their license with the aid of the family car and want to avoid getting their own (and know all-too-well how informal car-sharing works).
      Second, we have found little interest from the poor.  We find our members to have lower-than-average income, but above-average education background.  These people find an owned car a dead weight around their ankles, and want relief.  They also see driving, especially at rush hour, to be little more liberating than being an elephant in a parade holding the tail of the animal in front in their trunk.
      Third, we don't offer most of what the car -- as advertised -- offers.  We only offer utilitarian driving access.  Which car-manufacturers (or even other industry partners) advertise that?  Rather they offer power, status, freedom, and a machine that communicates to others who they hell they are.
      Fourth, we add "noise" to the access, by requiring some planning and a walk on either end of the journey.  We kill most of the spontaneity that constitutes a good share of 'freedom'.
      Fifth, while we offer little in the way of "image" (a flashy or powerful or well-appointed vehicle), we do offer the "reverse image" of utilitarianism, somewhat as the early VW beetles not-so-subtly mocked the standard car image of the 50's and 60's.  And it is that reverse image that will specifically turn off the panting masses waiting to get their place on the ever-more-congested byways of their communities (even though carsharing offers the only real alternative to congestion be reducing the number of vehicles available to do the congesting).
      The last matter is whether someone who has joined carsharing to avoid car costs will later move to an owned car when their income situation improves.  We find the people who resign to buy a car usually are facing changing personal circumstances beyond their control (a new job; getting married; tending to an elderly parent).  Several have rejoined later.
      Chris Bradshaw, Vrtucar, Ottawa
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