Despite having a car, I take public transport or walk for most of my journeys, using my car perhaps once or twice a week. Even then, about half of those trips could just as easily be made on public transport. I also have my car just in case I need convenient access to a vehicle for when I need to get to somewhere out of the way or at a strange hour when public transport is thin.
The problem is that my car costs me about $3,000 in fixed costs each year (rego, insurance, roadside assistance, maintenance, depreciation, finance, etc) before I even turn the ignition key. At $250 per month, that’s a big price to pay “just in case”. And this is before petrol!
People in this situation have been turning to car share schemes as a solution. Sydney has GoGet and Melbourne has Flexicar, with Green Share Car as the third player. They have cars parked around the CBD and inner city which you hire by the hour, then return to where you got them. You can book one ahead of time, or you can just walk up and hire one that’s sitting there. Around my area in Randwick, there are 7 parked within a 10 minute walk of where I live. In busy areas, there are parking bays reserved specifically for shared cars, meaning you always know where it will be because they get priority.
Cost is around $5-$10 per hour, with petrol included. There are also sometimes additional costs per kilometre (30c to 35c) and a monthly subscription fee ($10-$30). For the occasional car user, like myself, this ends up being much cheaper than owning a car outright that sits there unused for 95% of the time.
By allowing multiple people to effectively just own and share the same vehicle, valuable on-street or garaged parking is conserved. The City of Sydney has now mandated that any new residential apartment buildings contain a certain number of parking spaces for share cars within the building’s parking lot. The City of Sydney estimates that it has kept 800 cars off the streets, either because people have deferred a car purchase or sold their existing car.
It’s also useful for a family that has a car and wants to buy a second car (one for mum and one for dad), when really all they need is occasional access to a second car.
However, these car share schemes aren’t charities, they are for profit companies. And this has led to some controversy recently as they tend to receive free reserved parking bays from local councils in which to park their cars. In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, a Waverly Council counsellor has called for GoGet to be charged for these spaces, arguing that the company should not be profiting from the council. While I can empathise with this point of view, I would argue that the benefit of widespread car share schemes in reducing on-street parking and encouraging public transport instead of driving mean that the costs do outweigh the benefits for rate payers.
So what do you think? Should share cars get free parking spaces to maximise benefit to residents or is it just inflating the profits of private companies that would otherwise have paid?