Australia's cities are growing at a massive rate, but the space for those new residents to live in is limited. It basically doesn't exist beyond high-rise apartment blocks, at least within metropolitan areas. And that means that owning a car won't be possible — isn't possible now — for a lot of people. That's where car-sharing comes in. And Sydney is one of the world's most car-sharing friendly cities, according to a new report that suggests up to 10,000 fewer cars are being driven within the CBD bounds with those cars replaced by less than a thousand car-sharing vehicles.
Sydney leads transport hubs like Boston and San Francisco in the rollout and effectiveness of car-sharing, according to a new report from AECOM commissioned by the International Carsharing Association and shared with the Committee for Sydney. The city has embraced sharing in a number of different forms, says the report, including in everything from temporary ride-sharing through services like Uber and Sydney Airport collaborating on short-term pickup zones to the city's acceptance and encouraging of private operators like GoGet in rolling out car-sharing pods in dense and high-traffic areas of the CBD.
GoGet is Australia's largest car-sharing service and has 2200 vehicles across the country and 66,000 users, both figures that are apparently growing 40 per cent year on year. In the City of Sydney region alone, 20,000 users — 15 per cent of the population of the area — access over 800 GoGet cars, 162 of which are parked in off-street locations that a single privately-owned car would otherwise occupy.
Congestion, parking and long-term storage are all impediments to private car ownership in cities like Sydney, and car-sharing eliminates the third problem while contributing to lessening the other two. Interestingly, the report says that existing car owners that switched to car-sharing saw their usage fall to lower levels than before, "because the true cost of the additional car journey is fully understood" when it's booked and paid for in single-trip inclements, rather than being averaged out by every full tank of petrol and yearly registration and insurance payment.
Well over half of Sydney's population don't need a car to get to work, according to the report, with almost 30 per cent using public transport and a quarter travelling on foot. "People find that they can do local shopping on the way home, do the supermarket shopping on the internet, and catch a taxi — or Uber — out in the evening so they don't have to count their drinks." Each trip using car- or ride-sharing convinces users that their car is "of only limited use."
Users of car-sharing, too, travel around 2000 vehicle kilometres less each year, which reduces on-road congestion and pollution — at around 1500km of car-sharing journeys on average versus 3525km for private owners. With the average cost of owning a private car sitting at over $5000 per year (according to a NRMA 2014 operating cost report), car sharing could pay for itself if a user takes fewer than 6 trips per week. Car-sharing has contributed to City of Sydney residents travelling 37 million fewer kilometers per year.
And here's a pie-in-the-sky view of how we might all be travelling to work in 2025, courtesy of AECOM:
In a world where car- and ride-sharing is widespread, commuting to work will look very different to today. Leaving the house in the outer suburbs, a commuter will step immediately into an autonomous six-seat mini-bus. The bus will be scheduled to arrive every weekday at the same time. If a commuter’s schedule changes, another bus will change its route to pick them up. The commuter can also use an app to choose from a variety of other transport types, including small autonomous cars. The app shows the cost of each type of journey.
Stepping into the mini-bus, the commuter will join five commuters, who pay a smaller fee by sharing the ride. The bus has no driver, using a combination of radar, GPS and other sensors to navigate. Along the route, the bus constantly communicates with roadside signs, traffic lights and sensors using V2I technology, learning the location of traffic accidents while being given priority ahead of private cars by traffic lights at intersections. That data will allow it to calculate the optimum route to the nearby train station.
Arriving at the station, the bus will pull up in a drop-off lane, not unlike the departure drop-off at an airport. The commuter will step out and the vehicle will move off to another booking. When it is no longer required, the vehicle will then find a quiet back street to park, away from congested areas, or even more likely will optimise a route to its next pickup, realising the ideal of maximum vehicle utilisation.