Design Theory and Methodology
11 October 2009
Carpooling and Carsharing Strategies
Today, individual or personal mobility has developed into a right rather than a luxury. Unfortunately, the vast number of automobiles clogging our cities’ urban landscapes and polluting the air is seemingly uncontrollable (Mau 49.) This issue of personal mobility and its consequent traffic leads one to question how mobility could be made more efficient. John Thackara asserts in his book “In the Bubble; Designing in a Complex World” that one must address the core issue of personal mobility, but that it is not enough to just make mobility more efficient. This is because mobility will continue to expand on its own accord, leading to exorbitantly high social, economic and environmental costs worldwide. Since 1950 the average distance traveled by an automobile driver in his daily commute to work has increased from 3.6 kilometers per day to 13 kilometers per day (Thackara 59-60.) One proposed solution to help curtail the vast number of personal automobiles on the world’s roadways is to increase communal mobility: carpooling and carsharing.
Carsharing is a short-term car rental arrangement where customers can arrange to use a community car for a period of time, returning the car after use (MSN Encarta.) Information from Austin’s Carshare website system suggests, “each carshare network car removes 11 private cars from the road plus 12 more as members postponed new car purchases” (AustinCarShare.) This idea of carsharing questions the notion of personal mobility, allowing users freedom within a network of other car sharers. “In a 2004 study, San Francisco’s City Carshare found a 47% reduction in car travel among carshare members. This study also found a 25% increase in public transit usage with its members” (AustinCarShare.) Of students surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin, over 54% of the students claim to use the bus as a common form of transportation. Since many students at UT and Austin residents already utilize the public transit system to commute and run errands, one can see an effective carsharing system implemented in this already dense area of communal transportation. A carsharing system inspires users to think more and drive less by using modernization programs, these programs attempt to integrate already existing transportation systems with a new carsharing system. These modernization programs see these modes of transportation as complementary not competitive (Thackara.)
Cities such as: Bremen (Germany), Bogota (Colombia), and Curitiba (Brazil) have become the model cities for new mobility culture. Bremen, Germany has developed a new mobility strategy that is inspired by a mythical creature, “ die eierlegende Wollmilchsau” meaning “egglaying-woolmilksow,” which translates as an all-in-one device, suitable for everyone. With this inspiration in mind, Bremen has attempted to create an intermodal system, which includes public transportation and car sharing (Mau 57.) In a case study, entitled the Moses Study, which analyzed the carsharing system implemented in Bremen; it became clear that the carsharing system replaced 700 privately owned cars with 3,100 car sharing customers. Furthermore, with the pay as you go system, the number of miles driven per year dramatically decreased showing a reduction of 5 million kilometers per car. This consequently resulted in an increased use of public transportation and other environmentally friendly modes of transportation (Manage Energy.)
Although carsharing systems have proven to be successful in several urban cities, companies such as eRideShare.com strive to take this idea of communal personal mobility one step further: providing an online carpooling service. From the numbers advertised on eRideShare.com, the company provides daily over 14,765 riders with a work carpool and 1,248 riders with a cross-country travel companion. However, the number of riders who use the program for everyday errands and/or shopping remains under 150 riders per day nationwide (eRideShare.) What many riders fail to realize is that “everyday shopping is highly transport intensive: traveling to a shop usually takes far longer than doing it” (Thackara 54-55.) Shoppers react to this issue by using the internet as a virtual store, buying groceries and clothing online. However, this supposed alternative stimulates more travel than it aims to replace (Thackara 66.) This is due to the fact that each individual product is delivered to the doorstep of each individual buyer as opposed to a central location, such as a grocery store.
From research conducted by the National Consumer Agency in Ireland, as of July 2008 61% of grocery shoppers chose their main grocery shop based on convenience, i.e. geographic proximity (Amarach Reasearch.) Furthermore, as Thackara asserts, “ Cities are already vast information storage and retrieval systems in which different districts are organized by activity or social group” (Thackara 69.) With this assertion in mind, riders should begin to think more, drive less and plan shopping trips to not only geographically close stores but also with a companion. Dense urban areas with congested roadways would highly benefit from a carpooling system implemented to aid the pairing of riders on their daily errands, this system would help to reduce carbon emissions as well as decrease the number of cars on the roadways, even more than a carsharing system. Of the students surveyed at the University of Texas at Austin, only 1 in 6 claimed to carpool when grocery shopping, but most often carpooled while running other errands. However, because UT’s campus is a highly dense area it seems ecologically irresponsible for a student to not take a friend along when grocery shopping. Because shopping is a relatively personal experience, most people would not feel comfortable sharing with a stranger, a grocery store carpooling system could be easily implemented on a smaller scale, within an already established organization or company, such as a dorm at UT. Large corporations, universities, athletic teams and religious groups already use the eRideShare program. With the implementation of a grocery store carpooling system within these already formed communal mobility groups, the bulk of individual mobility could be decreased further. As Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries asserts in his book “Massive Change,” “No transportation system is an island; it must coordinate all shared systems for maximum effect” (Mau 57.) With the effective implementation of carsharing and carpooling systems, communal mobility could begin to take precedence over personal or individual mobility and free the urban landscape of unnecessary traffic and pollution.
AustinCarShare.com. Austin Car Share. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
ERideShare. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
Manage Energy. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
Mau, Bruce, Jennifer Leonard, and Institute Without Boundaries. Massive Change. New York: Phaidon, 2004. Print.
MSN Encarta Dictionary. Encarta. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
Slideshare.net. Amarach Research, Sept. 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
Thackara, John. In the Bubble Designing in a Complex World. New York: The MIT, 2006. Print.