Is car-sharing the future of London’s transport?

Our cities are congested and air pollution rates are the highest ever. Four of the top 25 most congested cities in Europe and North America are in the UK – namely Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and London. The need for alternative transport is urgent and yet car ownership is still on the rise, with a third of households owining two cars. 

You are reading an article from the Smart cities series, to read more about this you can visit the series homepage.

In the City of London a congestion charge is already in place, taxing drivers each time they speed through the city. But there are more alternatives which go wider than London, which are great for those who hate the chaos of public transport and want to save money too (who doesn’t fall into this category?!). Car sharing, renting cars, carpooling. Type “car sharing” into a search engine and a plethora of options pop up.

Feedback about car sharing is generally positive with comments about how “convenient and useful for short-term usage” they are. There is however the rare case of “time anxiety” towards the end of the booking. 

The benefits are endless, rather than paying car tax, renting out a garage space and buying a mini vacuum cleaner, you can just take a ride in a car for the day. Academics who are studying the rise of car sharing believe that the concept is on the rise. Alec Dent, a spokesperson from Zipcar said that “car sharing is becoming more mainstream and that the number of users doubles every year.”

The rise of car sharing has increased hand in hand with the changing shape of our cities: more people than ever before live in small flats in high-rise buildings. Many young people are not only short on garage space, but are having to survive on reduced incomes as house prices in the city fly high, leaving little available for transportation. Sam Diserens, a business analyst from London says: “After tax, rent and food, I want to be able to enjoy living in this fabulous city. Car sharing is great because I can go and see my girlfriend without having to break the bank on train fares or year long car tax.”

So what are the options?

If you like people and don’t mind holing up in somebody’s passenger seat for the length of a trip from Newcastle to London, then companies like BlaBlaCar, Liftshare and Carpooling UK are worth checking out. Drivers who have a spare seat register on one of these sites and you simply send the message and buddy up. Scared about taking a lift with a psycho? Car share sites don’t let their members use pseudonyms and all profiles are verified. 

Just need to drive something heavy across town for a few hours? Sign up to a car share service that lets you swipe your card and pick up a conveniently located vehicle to speed you across town. As well as cars, Zipcar caters for loadbearers (vans) or eco-warriors, with their selection of eco-friendly vehicles. Swipe and drive!

Boris bikes? How about Boris cars? If you’re a Londoner you can expect to see the British equivalent of Paris’ Autolib coming to the city soon. This electric car sharing scheme works in much the same way as the bikes do-sign up, pick, up, drive off, park. Although the scheme wasn’t started with the initial aim of reducing the city’s traffic, it’s certainly one of its welcome side effects. The company introducing the scheme aims to roll out 100 cars in London in the first year; in Paris there are currently 1800 Autolib’ cars in use and available for around £10 an hour. 

What's your favourite way to car-share. Let us know in the comments below. 

 This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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