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

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  • Michael Yeates
    Hi Eric and others ... Having recently experienced an unsuccessful campaign where a two lane arterial road with spare space was widened to four lanes and
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 16, 2004
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      Hi Eric and others ...

      Having recently experienced an unsuccessful campaign where a two lane arterial road with "spare space" was widened to four lanes and where we campaigned for the "new" lanes to be BUS LANES (which in Australia, allow buses, taxis and cyclists), we now have a T2 TRANSIT LANE which allows cars with two people in them. The result is a much reduced level-of-service for bus travellers and a much more threatening environment for cyclists.

      In regard to car-sharing, one has to ask similar questions in terms of whether this is (1) an incentive to continued car use/dependence, (2) a disincentive to increased use of bus and cycling (and walking and trains, boats etc), and (3) a means to legitimate increased car-use in a political sense while appearing to constrain growth in car use.

      As there are not very many more people, if the T2 is regarded as a travel demand manager or as a method to change the mode share, where do the passengers in the cars come from?

      We think from previous bus passengers (eg children going to school in the CBD or nearby who used to catch the bus are now given a lift in the car so that mum or dad can now use the T2 lane along with other adults or uni students who get a lift with a friend) and previous cyclists (who used to be able to use the "spare space" but now have to contend with a stream of cars travelling in the T2 lane...! To them, we can also add "would be" bus passengers or cyclists who would have been likely to use these modes instead of a car if the traffic had continued to become more congested.

      It seems to me that car-sharing works best if it is closely related to either housing or workplaces AND ONLY available when the other-than-car modes are not suitable. There have been some co-operative housing ("co-housing"?) schemes where a car or two is part of the community property which seems a reasonable way of thinking about car-sharing ...??

      To me, the "traffic" generation problem seems to be related to the idea that we have to reduce congestion and make road travel by car easier rather than making the alternatives easier.

      In that sense car-sharing does make road travel by car (relatively) easier by (theoretically) reducing the number of cars on the road ... but that then makes spaces for other cars ... and we know how long it takes for 'spare' capacity to be used by someone else ... the 'induced' traffic effect ...!

      The global/regional environmental and economic imperatives (IF they are not contested??) also suggest that we should be aiming to severely constrain car travel in BOTH the north and the south ... and to do that, it seems to me that much greater constraints are needed in the north ...

      Thus car-sharing is a useful tool but one that needs extreme care in its promotion ... to ensure the outcomes are not unexpected ...!

      Michael Yeates

      At 08:23 PM 15/04/2004, eric.britton@... wrote:

      There are days in which you learn more than in other days.  For example, yesterday. As almost everyone on both of these lists knows, I am a firm believer in carsharing as a strategic motor into more sustainable and more socially just transport.  And as we all know, the action until now has been mainly in Europe, with North America advancing quite handsomely over the last several years.

      Another aspect of my long term interest is the much needed push to more sustainable transportation in the developing countries, and in  particular new ways of breaking the old patterns and adaptations from the advanced industrial economies who have for the most part done such a fine job in disjoining their own cities and life quality. And while carsharing has not yet made any notable headway there, I have aggressively pushed it in my own international consulting and advisory work.

      And while I still am a believer (I think), today was the day that an old friend and colleague walked through the virtual door and has given me something to think on the subject that I would like to share with you all and ask your comments and counsel in turn.  Lee Schipper, Director of Research, EMBARQ, the WRI Center for Transport and Environment wrote me in quick success today the following three notes on this topic>
      1. “Funny I have thought a lot about car sharing but I am worried it moves people too fast into cars by giving them a cheaper buy-in.”  (And then when I answered that I had to do some serious cogitating on this, he quickly responded . . . )
      “Well, if you go into rich countries and woo people who normally would have almost instinctively owned cars, yes, there must be a results. I suspect that Zip and the others in the yuppie parts of Washington DC do that. But car sharing where there are no cars yet can serve as car boosters, likewise among  groups (like students in  Europe) who don't yet have cars. My fear is that by creating a mobile class even if they don’t OWN cars they can move into a car-friendly long-distances/low density world earlier than otherwise “Also drivers licensees are expensive. By making the car cheap on a part time bases the user has to make the investment in a licenses. After that, who wants to only drive a few hours a week? Anyway some thoughts!”
      Which is where things stand for me this morning in Paris. May I invite your comments on this.  For myself, I have to turn off the lights and do a bit of hard thinking first.  Hmm.  Lee… Hmmm.


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