Car sharing needs more infrastructure

I went down to Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and, thanks to car sharing, was able to pick up a car just round the corner from my hotel and use it just like I was at home. That was a real boon in getting out of the city and down to Phillip Island to see penguins, but it also drove home to me how well car share works as part of a hub and spoke system of public transport.

Public transport cannot take you everywhere. But if it takes you to the main hubs and you have choices from there, including car share, to go further there are real efficiencies to be found. To make that work requires the active planning of our various levels of government to provide spaces for car share. A new report, and calls from car share organisers, makes this same point – the main limiting factor on the growth of car share schemes is infrastructure planning.

In northern Sydney a draft recent plan for public transport didn’t mention car share at all. The assumption that people will get off buses and trains and walk everywhere is clearly deeply misguided. Once you get out of the center of Sydney, where car share use amongst adults is around 20%, people drive their cars to public transport hubs. The cars then just sit in a parking lot for an entire day, doing nothing until they get driven home. It’s astonishingly wasteful. An obvious step towards fixing it would be the provision of car share spaces at major transport hubs.

Then there are new developments. New blocks of flats should have mandatory car share spaces as a matter of course. For renters in particular car share within an apartment block makes an overwhelming level of sense.

All of this requires only some planning and some minor, in the scheme of things, expense. It doesn’t require huge infrastructure costs, just planning. It also requires a visceral acceptance that each car share represents up to 12 privately owned cars that are not churning about trying to find spaces to park; 12 cars not using up fossil fuels; and 12 cars not mostly sitting unused as a costly immobile monument to poor planning.

Compared to the complexity of something like putting a rail system in to the Northern Beaches instead of building yet another road, this is the sort of planning decision that is trivial and the State Government ought to just get on with it.

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