‏‏ Do you really need your own car? Five lessons a year with a car sharing app | Shelley Hepworth - Mobilyardim

Do you really need your own car? Five lessons a year with a car sharing app | Shelley Hepworth

Before moving abroad six years ago, I sold my car and have lived without a car ever since. Life in New York was a breeze for the first two years, but being car-free in Sydney? Not so much.

Private cars have always been an integral part of getting from A to B in Australia. While I was taking the bus to school, the afternoon and weekend activities usually had to be lifted by my parents or a friend’s. I got my own driver’s license as soon as I qualified and a few years later I bought my first car, which I used most days.

The past four years have felt like a struggle against the sluggishness of an environment built for cars – especially now that I’m car-free in a beachside suburb with no train station and only a few bus services.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a one-way bus that takes me from home to the office in about 30 minutes, making public transport to work an easy choice. But traveling 5 km through a few suburbs to visit a bar or restaurant is not so easy. In one example, a minimum of two buses is needed and a 40-minute journey, or 53 minutes on foot, according to Google maps. The drive would only take 13 minutes.

Before giving in and buying a car, I decided to spend 12 months using the car-sharing app GoGet, taking stock of the cost and experience in an attempt to reduce the significant expenses and CO2 emissions associated with a personal car with entails to avoid. In that time I learned that carsharing is both liberating and a big hassle.

Lesson 1: It wasn’t cheaper (for me) to share

GoGet offers a network of 3,400 vehicles across five Australian cities that you can rent via an app for an hourly rate and access via a smart card. There are starter, occasional or frequent plans depending on your usage. I paid $30 per month for a minimum rental rate of $6.70 per hour, plus $0.40 per mile, which includes gas and insurance.

The app shows you a map of nearby vehicles that you can pre-book and cancel until the last minute. With several cars within 500 yards of my apartment, including an SUV with a baby seat, only once did I have a problem finding a conveniently located free car.

Over the course of 12 months, I made 80 trips, traveled 1,690 miles, and spent $2,246.15 on GoGet — an average of $187 per month.

I used a friend’s car to calculate the rough equivalent cost of a private car, which came in slightly higher at $2,406 ($477 for mandatory “green slip” liability insurance, $381 for registration, $1,248 for optional comprehensive car insurance, and $300 for gasoline).

“I decided to start using the car-sharing app GoGet for 12 months to take stock of costs and experience.” Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

At first glance, these costs are similar, but there are some qualifications. For the first six months of the year, I had a friend around the corner whose car I borrowed at least once a week for small trips. I also sometimes found that it was cheaper to pay for an Uber than to pay for the time the GoGet car would spend near the location (you can extend the booking in 30 minute intervals).

And, crucially, this experiment took place during the pandemic, with at least a quarter of that time being spent in lockdown. In normal times, which I hope will come, I would expect to drive more often and further afield – especially to see my parents who live 17 miles away (50 minutes by car, more than twice as much by public transport, or $60 through GoGet for a three-hour visit).

Lesson 2: it made me more environmentally aware

Using a car-sharing service has made me more aware of both my transportation spending and my carbon footprint. Every time I went to book, I asked, “Do you really need a car for this? Do you really need to make this trip?” – something I never did when I had my own car. Usually the answer was yes, but that didn’t take away the nagging guilt I felt knowing I was contributing to CO2 in the atmosphere and spending money I could ostensibly save.

“For the first six months of the year, I had a friend around the corner whose car I borrowed at least once a week for short trips.” Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

I suspect the guilt I felt booking cars was more financial than eco-friendly, but I became more aware of my carbon footprint in the process and it has become an increasing factor in my decision whether or not to repurchase. .

Lesson 3: parking is (a little) easier

Since I am near the coast, parking in my area is often difficult on sunny days.

Jennifer Kent, a senior research fellow in urban planning at the University of Sydney, says the lack of access to parking is “a huge motivator” for carsharing. “People are moving to inner-city areas where parking is extremely limited and there is simply nowhere to park a car. But you have to put that in context to be able to [give up having their own car] they must have access to good public transport, walk well and cycle well for all other journeys that are part of their lives.

“Private cars have always been an integral part of getting from A to B in Australia.” Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

“Car-sharing is not for regular journeys, it’s too expensive, so car-sharing only works as part of that network. And that’s half the problem we face in making carsharing work in the suburbs.”

In my case, GoGet only somewhat solved this problem, with its own reserved parking space, because on my return I would often find a Porsche or similar luxury car anyway.

Lesson 4: Australians are not used to sharing

Kent says Australian cities “have grown up a bit in the days of the private car”.

“We just assumed everyone would have access to a car, so that’s how we planned our suburbs. They are very low density, they are really hard to adapt with public transport, the distances people travel are quite long so very hard to satisfy walking and cycling – and it’s very hard to change that once it’s is situated. ”

As a result, Australians are used to the independence that a private car offers: the ability to go where we want, when we want, to carry a load, the sense of security a car offers – and also the sense of privacy. . And we don’t want to give this up.

“GoGet offers a network of 3,400 vehicles across five Australian cities that you can rent via an app at an hourly rate and access via a smart card.” Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

“Australians aren’t usually very good at sharing things,” says Kent. “When you think about the big Aussie dream, it’s all about private spaces, private backyards… and that extends to cars… A lot of people actually see [their] car as an extension of their living room. You hear stories about people who store piles of stuff in their cars, different clothes, etc. We cannot make that leap to sharing, because we not only share the mobility of the car, we also give it a sense of space.”

Over the past year, sometimes for a week here and there, I had access to the cars of friends or family who were traveling, and I certainly noticed the added convenience of knowing the car was there when I needed it. That convenience isn’t a deciding factor when buying a car, but it sure is nice to have sometimes. On the other hand, I also enjoy the feeling of being part of a sharing culture, it feels more communal and something I miss in the New York subway for example.

Lesson 5: We can’t go on like this

One of the main results of this experiment is that I have become more aware that my decisions are primarily based on self-interest. I am not alone.

“We are more of an individualistic society than societies in Europe, for example, where carsharing is a bit more popular,” says Kent. “We understand that there is inequality in society, and we like that inequality exists. While other countries where sharing may be more popular see more of a defense of a more equal society, and more equal access, which is better suited to things like public transportation and car sharing.”

“The practical need to keep travel time and costs low tips the scales in favor of ownership.” Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

Kent says Australia’s attachment to private cars is a vicious circle. To give up our cars, we need to know that the public transport infrastructure exists to get where we need to be on time. But in order to improve public transport, first and foremost a strong grassroots vote is needed.

Without it, she says, a cane might help.

“I think we really need to be a little bit dire. So looking at the snapback, post-Covid, for example, all the models suggest that traffic will increase… because people don’t want to use public transport. And the only thing that that going to a stop is the increased congestion – people get tired of being stuck in traffic and just shrug and say, ‘Okay, I’m getting back on the bus’.

‘We’re a bit like gruff teenagers, you know? If you make me do it, I’ll do it, but I do it reluctantly.”

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to buy a car, but I’m leaning in that direction. While this experience has made me think about the role of private cars in our society and have thought deeply about what kind of city I want to live in, I suspect the practical need to keep travel time and costs low will tip the scales in favor of long-term ownership.

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