Everyone can do a little energy saving in their own homes, but when it comes to transport sharing, you obviously can’t go it alone; if the whole community gets behind the idea, the potential for energy efficiency, saving money and lowering carbon emissions can be very big.
There’s nothing new about the idea of organising a car share with people going in the same direction at the same sort of time.
Driving has been on the receiving end of a lot of environmental criticism over recent years, which has led to more of an emphasis being placed on public transport, walking and cycling as the “green” solution. Never-the-less, while single occupancy cars undoubtedly do little to alleviate carbon emissions or congestion, there are times when, if they are used sensibly, cars can help. While buses and trains may be the most energy efficient ways to move a large number of people, in areas outside of the major conurbations, public transport coverage is often patchy at best and where it does exist, it may only run for a few hours of the day. Car sharing is an obvious solution to the problem and it is again one which lends itself to being solved on a community scale.
If every regular car-commuter gave another lone-driver a lift just once a week, according to the National Statistics Office, the number of cars on the roads would fall by around 15 per cent. However, the benefits of car sharing can go beyond the daily trip to work – it makes just as much sense to share a ride to the shops or to visit particular venues or events.
Organising A Scheme
A community car share can be as formal or informal as the participants want. At its simplest, the whole thing can revolve around a “lift wanted/offered” section on the local community notice board, newsletter or blog; alternatively, the community scheme can be part of a larger and more structured network of similar projects. In the end, the only thing that really matters is making journeys more energy efficient.
The first step in setting up any sort of car sharing has to be to gauge the likely local interest; it simply won’t work if there aren’t enough people willing to share – but be aware of the fact that you may have to be prepared to do a little educating of potential participants.
On the one hand, some of the deeply green residents may have a problem with the whole car concept, while dyed-in-the-wool motorists tend to see the whole idea as inconvenient and difficult to organise. In reality, of course, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two and you’ll soon get very good at explaining just how much better for the environment it is for a car to be full rather than only carrying the driver and how willing passengers will be to contribute to the cost of petrol!
Of course, community transport doesn’t all have to be about cars. Depending on where you live there are plenty of other things you can think about doing to improve local travel – and many communities have come up with some innovative ideas for themselves. Taxi sharing and mini-bus hire are two obvious examples, and as for car sharing – the nearer to full occupancy the vehicle, the more energy efficient it’s use of fuel becomes and the lower each individual passenger’s share of the inevitable pollution and carbon emissions.
In some areas, bike sharing schemes have been set up – collectively owned bicycles which locals are able to use for short trips, while in others, boat owners provide water-taxi services to residents along canals and waterways. Other communities have started to re-introduce the “crocodile” to avoid the school-run, with groups of parents escorting children on foot – at least on fine days!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way and the only real limit to how much transport sharing a community can do seems to be how imaginatively it’s prepared to think. With growing environmental awareness, escalating fuel costs and increasing congestion on our roads, there’s a lot to be said for any community giving the idea some serious thought.