Intermezzo: Would more and better carsharing make us happier people?

We are in the process of completing a report under the sponsorship of the Dutch government under the title “Going Dutch: A New Moment for Carsharing in the Netherlands”.  The report, which is aimed to inform local and national government policies, will be announced here shortly with full details, and proposed for an international peer review over the month of November against which copies will be made immediately available to all who step forward. As you will shortly see each of the six main chapters end with a broad thinkpiece on the topics covered taking some aspect from another, more exploratory angle.  We are calling these incidental sections, “intermezzi”.  In this article we reproduce the closing intermezzo, this time with thoughts on the topic of happiness.

carshare parking

*  Intermezzo: Carsharing : Greater Happiness For All?

This seems like a good way to end of this wandering personal voyage into the field and eventual future of carsharing in what is today the world’s tenth wealthiest democracy. And the fourth highest performer when it comes to the United Nations Human Development Index, the closest thing that we have today to a comparative measure of well-being of a population. [1]

I leave this with you as a closing note to the Netherlands admirable Sociaal-Economische Raad, an outstanding institution which has been known to ask similar unusual and challenging question. I offer the following remarks not as an answer but as a personal reflection.

So, would more and better carsharing make us happier people?

The answer is “most probably yes”. And in the absence of systematic research results, for a surrogate we can conjecture the following.

It is a fact that our carsharers, in their day-to-day lives are using many other softer transport modes as part of their overall mobility menu. Environmental impacts of this collective shift is already considerable, and can be expected to become even stronger as the overall mobility mix improves.

And carsharing is not only a way of getting around, it is part of a package that offers better identified lifestyle change is that of people who are moving away from traveling in their costly, heavily barricaded cars and to more walking, more cycling and more use of public transit in our day-to-day lives have significant impacts.

Believe it or not, a shift to carsharing in all that goes with it makes us healthier, more modest, more aware of our neighborhoods and others, encourages eye contact, and by getting us out of our cars at least a part of the time infinitely less dangerous to others.

Carsharing is a cheap way of getting around, requiring few if any subsidies, and in the process offering considerable advantages both to the people who do it and to government that has to pay the infrastructure built.

The true beauty of carsharing from a public policy and personal perspective is that it is based on the choices made by individuals for their own reasons and when they chose to do so.

Almost 2 decades ago the Dutch government-funded an interesting project which tried to open the way for discussions and actions in favor of better, more human, more just cities concerning the subtitle of which was “To Lose Is to Choose” (I think in Dutch that reads as “Verliezen is kiezen”.)

But today as we look into the decade ahead and have important decisions to make — or not to make it that is our choice — we can say “to win is to choose”.  For once this is an area of public policy in which the possibilities and choices are very clear, even unambiguous. So in this case we definitely have a situation in which to win is to choose. (Might that be “Win is kiezen”?)

[1] For the record the HDI is a composite index which permits inter-country comparisons based on a composite figure covering life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, and Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita

# # #

 

CROW/KpVV:  (Kennisplatform Verkeer en Vervoer –Knowledge Platform for Mobility and Transport). Supports local and regional authorities in their efforts to develop and implement mobility and transport policy by providing practical know-how, reports, guidelines, meetings, and networks.

 

EcoPlan: An independent advisory network and NGO providing strategic counsel for government and industry in the areas of economic development, sustainable transport and sustainable cities. Publisher of World Streets: the Politics of Transport in Cities.

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a public entrepreneur specializing in the field of sustainability and social justice. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions -- and in the process, find practical solutions to urgent climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. More at: http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7

View complete profile

 

2 thoughts on “Intermezzo: Would more and better carsharing make us happier people?

  1. I’ll be interested if there are workable ideas to bring car sharing to small rural towns, where parking is difficult and cars are essential due to lack of public transport

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s