– Csaba Mezei reports from Budapest
In the field of mobility, Hungary typifies the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Municipal public transport is well-developed and its modal share is relatively high (e.g. 61 percent in the capital city Budapest). However, the quality of public transport systems is declining due to decreasing state subsidies. Car ownership is still a status symbol and governments are keen to placate car owners and support motorised individual transportation rather than sustainable community solutions. In cities the health impacts of transport include a high rate of respiratory decease and allergies. The situation can be expected to get worse with increasing air pollution (especially particulates), noise, and congestion.
Sustainable mobility is not yet high on the political agenda, however public demand is increasing. Public transport is becoming more popular and in recent years cycling has become the fastest growing mode of local transport in Hungary. The idea of shared mobility is also gaining traction: car pooling initiatives have existed for a few years and the country’s first bike sharing schemes were launched in 2013 in the cities of Esztergom and Szeged. As of yet, though, there is no appointed public body (ministry, agency) responsible for carsharing.
Concerned government organisations
The National Transport Strategy is currently under preparation, and public consultation has started. The draft document mentions carsharing once in a reference to EU policies affecting the Strategy in the mid to long term (as a more efficient use of a transport mode). A few EU-funded research and development projects have shared best practices in carsharing among transport practitioners and municipal staff, but no pilot projects have been started to date.
The term “carsharing” is not well known in Hungary, and there is no agreed translation of it either. Carsharing will most likely be referred to as “közautó” or “közösségi autó”, although the first Hungarian operator has branded its service “Publicar(e)”.
The first carsharing service was introduced in October 2013 in Budapest. Avalon Car(e) Services launched a carsharing system targeting businesses as well as the general public in the downtown area. Avalon plans to have 50 cars in its public fleet by December 2013.
The first carsharing start-up in Hungary
Operator: Avalon Car(e) Services Ltd.
Name of the service: Publicar(e)
Date of start-up: September 2013
Number of vehicles: 50 (by Dec 2013)
Stations: 5 (to date)
Number of registered users: not known
Initial fee to join: 9900 HUF
Monthly subscription: 1290 HUF/month
Usage fee: 170-290 HUF/hour + 71-139 HUF/km
Contact: 1142 Budapest, Tengerszem u.106. Tel.: +361 7004444, E-mail: email@example.com
Site URL: www.publicare.hu
Contact person: Peter Ilosvai, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org
Projects under discussion:
– Expanding the Budapest network
– Introducing carsharing in other major cites (Győr, Szeged, Debrecen, Pécs)
– Regional expansion: Bratislava (Slovakia) and Krakow (Poland), for example
(According to rumours Mercedes plans to introduce its carsharing service — Car2go —in Hungary in Budapest. At the moment no further information is available in this regard.)
This year, the subject of carsharing captured the attention of media. The most popular national radio station devoted 30 minutes of discussion on the subject several months ago, and call-in guests concluded that Hungary was not yet prepared for carsharing. Despite this, Avalon launched its service a few months later.
Besides the aforementioned state bodies the following stakeholders can be listed:
– Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) – www.rec.org.
An international organisation dealing with key global, regional and local environmental issues, the REC contributes to sustainable solutions within and beyond its country office network. It transfers transitional knowledge and experience to countries and regions. The author of this summary works for REC.
– Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) – www.levego.hu. A nongovernmental organisation, CAAG deals with a variety of environmental issues including air quality and sustainable transport.
Budapest University of Technology and Economics – Faculty of Transportation Engineering and Vehicle Engineering – http://www.bme.hu/KJK-en?language=en
Institute for Transport Sciences – www.kti.hu
At present, a professional group has begun to coalesce on the car-sharing topic, although it is still at the level of informal discussion. Interested parties include NGO representatives, individual experts and transport planners. The idea of an international conference on car sharing has been raised (alongside many different ideas). Due to the lack of capacities and resources, the work is being done on a voluntary basis. Available EU funding for such initiatives is constantly monitored. In the event of open calls, the REC will take the lead on bidding.
Political lobbying for carsharing has been limited to date. Efforts were made by the first carsharing provider (Avalon) in cooperation with REC. These included overtures to the Budapest Transport Authority (BKK), Budapest City Hall and Hungary’s Ministry of Development. Measures for supporting carsharing were proposed including: public space use at a discount price or for free; access to bus lanes in Budapest; and joint marketing efforts for raising awareness on shared mobility. No state subsidies were requested. All of the contacted public bodies showed interest but no further action followed from these initial meetings.
As mentioned above car ownership is still a status symbol in Hungary. However, a trend towards more sustainable transport (e.g. cycling) can be seen among younger inhabitants.
Avalon’s own research showed that interest in carsharing is highest among people 40 to 59 years of age. These people tend to prefer individual motorised transport but they are also price conscious and therefore potentially interested in the economic advantages of carsharing.
Cost of car ownership:
(Calculations based on an average Hungarian car – 12 years old, running: 15.000 km/year, consuming: 8 litres/100 km)
Fuel: 1.36 EUR/litre (95) – 1632 EUR/year
Regular maintenance: 180 EUR/year
Insurance (mandatory): 120 EUR/year
Vehicle tax: 35 EUR/year
Tyres: 140 EUR/year (including winter and summer tyres and replacement costs)
Parts replacement: 120 EUR/year
Technical inspection: 100 EUR/year
Depreciation: 400 EUR/year
Motorway tolls: 150 EUR/year
The above list of costs adds up 2877 EUR/year however, there are additional costs not listed (e.g.: parking, car washes, accessories, financing)
Potential of carsharing
According to a survey of 2400 inhabitants conducted in 2010, approximately 51 percent of all car owners travel less than 10000 km a year (and 12 per cent drive less than 5000 km). There are approximately 3 million cars in the country and 38 percent of owners live in mid-sized cities (50000+ inhabitants) where car sharing has a potential market. This means that there are 580000 potential car users who might join a carsharing scheme for economic reasons. If just half of them used carsharing, that would be 2,8 percent of Hungary’s population (approx. 10 million.
Hungarians are very price conscious and therefore the biggest incentive for new users would be cost savings.
Cultural barriers: disrespect of public property
Political barriers: high level of corruption, chaotic parking systems
Knowledge barriers: low awareness and interest of sustainable transport and new mobility concepts, including carsharing
Economical barriers: bad environment for start-up companies
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About the author:
Csaba Mezei is an expert in environmental information in the Green Transport Topic Area of the Regional Environmental Center (REC). He graduated with a teachers’ college degree of English and physical education at the ELTE Teachers’ Training College in Hungary. He spent seven years in the mainstream of environmental protection, namely Greenpeace, where he gained experience in several positions such as logistic coordinator, campaign coordinator and office director. He also familiarised himself with environmental topics such as climate change, energy, toxic pollution, sustainable transport and GMOs. Since 2009, Mezei has worked at the REC, where he manages and supports projects related to providing and promoting environmental information access in a timely and cost-efficient manner. For this particular position, he coordinates REC’s role within several EC-financed projects concerning sustainable urban transport.
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