Carshare can be defined as a private/public service providing cars parked in kerbside or parking lot spaces, which can be booked and accessed by members for use within a designated area for a limited period at known rates.

Melbourne City Council has identified three carshare operators in the inner Melbourne area [Flexicar, Goget and Greensharecar].  From an initial review of these operations, it seems that all the current Melbourne carshare operators provide a similar type of service; once membership is attained, there are four key steps to carshare, book online, swipe to access the car in the allocated parking space, drive for the booked period and return to the allocated space.  This type of carshare service is defined by the location of specially allocated car parking spaces, the need to book for an hour as a minimum and the need to return the car to the same specially allocated space.

Other carshare systems are finding favour overseas.

In Vancouver the Car2Go carshare system operating in the inner areas, allows for bookings by the minute as a minimum, one way trips and a much wider range of parking options.  The cars are small Smart cars [which may not be so good], there is an operational area limit [which is common to all systems] and a limit to the number of kilometres travelled in one trip.  In essence in many ways this system may be seen as the alternative to a bikeshare system given that Vancouver is yet to implement such a system and experiences significantly more rainy days than Melbourne.

In Germany and San Francisco, the DriveNow carshare system seems [from the description on its website] to operate in a similar way to the Car2Go system but provides larger cars which allows for greater flexibility [source: Radio National By Design program 01082012].

The carshare phenomenon seems to be evolving into a range of services to meet different needs; it seems to be gaining popularity in many inner urban areas, is quite possibly changing car ownership and may lead to a reduction of the carbon footprint.  According to Melbourne City Council ‘every carshare takes 7 to 10 cars off the road, and car usage of individuals’ involved is estimated to be reduced by up to 50 per cent.  Carshare may even become an alternative way to travel to or from the airport or the bus/train station [with implications for taxi operations].  The area of carshare operation might even spread into the suburban areas as an alternative mode of ‘public’ transport.

Contact Jenny Collie [jlc@colliepl.com.au]