Car share offers a wealth of green benefits

Liftshare.com offers an approach to travel that cuts costs and congestion and helps protect the environment, Nicola Gough reports.

Liftshare - the winner of the 2009 RTPI-Transport Planning Society (TPS) Transport Planning Network Award - is a social enterprise that helps individuals to travel more sustainably. It was set up in 1998 as an response to a situation where 64 per cent of all journeys are made by car, with nearly two-thirds carrying one occupant only.

Car sharing refers to two or more people travelling by car for all or part of a journey. Individuals usually take turns driving, and those without their own car usually contribute towards fuel.

The arrangement may be formal, via an organised car-share scheme, or informal, such as friends or colleagues travelling to work together. Formal schemes will match registered members making the same trip. There are also schemes that help people share one-off journeys.

A workshop last month gave an outline of how car sharing could potentially help to reduce congestion, improve access and affordable mobility, boost air quality and improve road safety.

Liftshare.com founder Ali Clabburn says: "The motivation for setting up the company was to make better use of the millions of empty car seats on UK roads every day."

High uptake of car sharing requires a change in travel behaviour in a defined community, workshop delegates were told. Some private car use is needed along with support from key stakeholders in a locality, a calculation of the costs and benefits of the options, an effective journey-matching solution and resources to support implementation and marketing.

The best developed schemes appear to be targeted at daily commuters. But car sharing can also benefit parents on the school run or as one-off schemes related to specific events. Firms may promote car sharing schemes to their staff as part of a workplace travel plan, either to counter parking restrictions or help employees cut their travel costs. Councils can encourage car sharing across an area involving many employers.

Evidence shows that if car occupancy doubles, carbon emissions could drop by nine million tonnes. A site employing 2,000 staff is likely to cut car parking costs by between £100,000 and £300,000 a year.

In addition, car sharing by commuters reduces an individual's carbon footprint by ten per cent and provides transport access to people in areas without or with limited public transport. Car sharing can offer better cost-benefit rates than other options, such as the opportunity to make significant savings while improving services.

Nicola Gough is the RTPI-TPS transport planning network manager. For more information about the network, please email transport@rtpi.org.uk. For more information about Liftshare, or to join, visit www.liftshare.com/business.


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