MOSES says car-sharing could part sea of traffic
More Europeans need to be part of car-sharing initiatives if congestion on our roads is to be reduced and sustainable transport patterns established, a special committee studying the issue told the European Parliament at a recent seminar.
Europe currently boasts some 150 000 car sharers, the majority of whom live in Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Hungary. This is a reflection of the growing recognition that car sharing is an essential and convenient way of trying to make our roads safer and less polluted.
Nevertheless, the system is still vastly underused, according to Mobility Services for Urban Sustainability (MOSES). The Commission-backed research project estimates that car-sharing schemes can viably reduce the number of vehicles on European roads by 10% within a decade.
MOSES has been working since 2001 to help make this goal a reality. In collaboration with eight European cities and regions, the project team has been focussing on developing services to reduce dependence on the private car, without restricting mobility.
It has also been active in communicating the benefits of car sharing, disseminating best practices, and building partnerships with public transport services and local policy-makers.
A nyone who has endured gridlock or spent an hour finding a parking space in town can tell you that the dream of liberation and independence that is still associated with the motor car can sometimes feel more like a nightmare. Cars, often carrying only one person, occupy a lot of space while parked vehicles clog our roads.
The main principle of car sharing, says MOSES, is to offer the freedom an automobile can bring without the hassle of ownership. Members of such schemes can pick up (and later drop off) a vehicle whenever they need to at one of the car-sharing stations dotted around their town. For people driving up to 15 000 km per year, car sharing is actually cheaper than car ownership.
Users of car-sharing networks are more inclined to vary their travelling behaviour and use the most appropriate mode of commuting, research has shown. Freed from the restrictions associated with private vehicle ownership, they walk more, take public transport or cycle to their destinations, using cars only when other alternatives are inconvenient.
In addition to being healthier, the system is better for the environment. Fewer vehicles on the road means a more efficient transport infrastructure, lower exhaust emissions and less energy consumption. The average car, according to MOSES, is an idle hulk of steel and plastic for 22 hours a day. By putting them to better use, we can reduce the need for new ones.