By Friso Metz, CROW-KpVV, the Netherlands
Recently a medium sized Dutch city asked my counsel about carsharing. The city wants to promote carsharing and is looking for ideas. While discussing with the city officials and their marketeers, we discovered a particular issue in carsharing. I explained that an average parking bay for carsharing in the Netherlands only shows a sign explaining that it’s intended uniquely for carsharing. The road surface shows a white cross which tells you that it is prohibited to park there (unless you are driving the shared vehicle).
A smart idea: Its salient and curious residents may discover what this strange car is doing there. The otherwise anonymous parking bay now has a name and anyone could find out where more information may be found, where to complain, etc.
A smart idea: the interest for carsharing is growing, but many people have never heard about the concept, even when it’s available in their own neighbourhood.
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I asked if this might be an option for their city. The marketeers were thinking that this would be seen as an advertisement, so the taxation authority should raise a tax for that. Indeed, the first major Dutch carsharing operator Greenwheels has been hunted for years by the Amsterdam Taxation authority, even if the sign said “carsharing only”, without mentioning Greenwheels.
When I asked what they were thinking about bus stops, the reaction was completely different: “Yes, but public transport is a public service”.
Agreed, the government funds a large part of the public transport costs and tenders it. But as far as I know, bus operators like Arriva and Connexxion are commercial companies. In that way they really don’t differ from car sharing operators like Greenwheels or Connectcar.
Many bus stops provide information about the bus lines calling at the bus stop, about the schedule, about tickets and tariffs, and the logo of the transport authority. All because public transport is relevant for the government, as it contributes to an improved accessibility and liveabilty.
The big question is whether we shouldn’t look at shared vehicles in the same way: as an important new mobility service in the package of mobility options, and as an alternative for car ownership. Moreover, shared cars may be seen as a form of collective transport. The vehicles are accessible for all members and the combination of public transport and carsharing is a powerful alternative for owning a car.
Shouldn’t governments embrace this? And shouldn’t governments explain what carsharing actually is and why it’s important for both citizens and society as a whole? Doesn’t carsharing deserve descent parking bays with clear information about the concept? Please no screaming ads. But perhaps one might design a beautiful sign in which the city provides information which is the same for all operators.
It could even be made personal: a nice picture of the users with the message “these people make <neighbourhood x> liveable and sustainable. The sign refers to http://www.<city>.<country>/carsharing for more information. (Does your city have such a website by the way???) This site provides information on all forms of carsharing, including peer-2-peer carsharing and private carsharing.
Just another question: Does the city send the bill for maintenance of the bus stop to the bus operator? And the bill for the carsharing bay?
Perhaps in the future the bus stop might transform into a mobility stop: the place where your bus trip starts, but also the place where to pick up a shared car. The place to meet a carpool partner and where minibuses, company busses and Uber are allowed to pick and drop passengers. How far is this future away from us?
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About the author:
Friso Metz is a mobility management expert, program manager and human behavior specialist in the CROW-KpVV Knowledge Platform for Traffic and Transport. Working with in-depth information and international expert networks KpVV supports local and regional authorities in the development and implementation of policy in the field of mobility. At KpVV Friso Metz writes regularly on information, choices and influencing behavior.