Car Sharing

Car Busters 33, Jan - Mar 2008

Dear Anna
I drive to work alone. Three empty seats go to waste on regular journeys that I could share. I look around and there are loads of driver only cars in traffic jams. Explain how to car share so that it saves me money and doesnít inconvenience me.
Solo Driver

Dear Solo Driver
Well done for noticing that congestion would be reduced through co-operation! If half of UK drivers got a lift once a week, pollution would be cut by 10% and traffic jams by 20%. Itís best if you could work at home, walk, cycle or use public transport. But some trips are only manageable by car, when sharing makes perfect sense. Itís a win/win traffic reduction tactic.

Two distinct car share types exist:
1) Lift share or ride share - where a driver and passengers link for a specific trip (often a return journey to work, education, shopping, an event etc). Passengers should offer to pay some variable costs like fuel, tolls, congestion charges and parking if it is prearranged. Or, when hitch hiking, rides are free.

2) Ownership share - where people jointly own a vehicle, splitting fixed costs, but not necessarily taking the same journeys. Car clubs are joint renting/car ownership share. The same car is used by different members.

Lift share is usual between family and friends. Sharers benefit from company, lower costs and itís greener than multiple cars going the same way. Having a car parked in a drive reduces burglaries. Sometimes high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or sharer parking bays can speed up trips.

If you donít already know who to share with then effort is required to find someone doing similar journeys. Once matched it is up to people to keep to their word. Fortunately, many people have mobile phones making it easy to keep informed of plans.

Start by asking colleagues about how they began sharing. Look for commuter matching schemes. Register on line or with whoever runs it. If none exists then volunteer to run it. Yes - be proactive and GO FOR IT! Youíll enjoy the pick of the offers of near neighbours or others on your direct route. Advertising methods include asking people verbally, via notice boards, a staff meeting, newsletter, email lists, intranet or with fliers - for instance near the drinks area/canteen. Why not put it on the company agenda by having a car share meeting at lunch or coffee break? Photocopy some maps and ask people to mark their home and draw their route. Your attempt be green, reduce pollution, congestion and parking issues will be applauded.

Or do large employers nearby run lift share matching? In the UK see and, your Councilís website or ask your Councilís transport department.

Gold standard schemes use computer Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and postcodes to consider not only routes and times but also gender (e.g. women who want to share with women) and smoking preference. Some places have Park & Share sites where people travel independently to a meeting point and then share to a common destination e.g. to a town from a secure car park on the ring road.

Organised car share is the mainstay of business Travel Plans. 69% of UK commuters drive alone. It falls by 10% plus with well run lift matching and incentives like taxi fare refunds if arrangements break down due to an emergency and/or if there are minibuses/coaches for staff pick ups. Flexitime, compressed working, designated lift share parking near entrances, car sharer breakfasts, rationing car park passes, parking fees and cash outs plus green traveller lotteries all encourage car share. Itís an inexpensive way to solve parking problems.

For safety
* Avoid swapping home addresses with a new sharer before meeting.

* Meet in a public place near public transport links. Then passengers have an alternative should the lift fall through

* The first time you share a lift with a stranger, ask for ID such as a driving licence or identity card.

* Hitch hike in pairs

Lift partners can take turns driving so no cash changes hands. This avoids tax issues - where car share is an income source (though I suspect it is rarely declared). 2007 UK tax allowances are 5p per passenger per business mile for carrying fellow employees on work journeys.

Savings add up. At £1 a litre, average fuel costs are 13p a mile. At half fuel costs, if a sharer paid 7p a mile for a daily five miles each way (10 miles), youíd earn 70p daily, £3.50 a week, 40 weeks at least a year or £140 a year. Two sharers is £280 and three sharers £420 p.a. True marginal costs of driving are 25p a mile including maintenance and spares. Sharers should pay 13p a mile (£1.30 a day / £6.50 weekly / £260 p.a.). Massive savings (£1400 + p.a.) accrue by sharing ownership (including fixed costs) and getting rid of a car.

Anna Semlyen wrote Cutting Your Car Use We are actively looking for publishers and authors in other countries (except North America). Email

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