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‘Transport N

ew and emerging forms of car club could bring significant benefits to the public

sector, along with new issues to consider and challenges to overcome. A recent report examines how current and future trends could affect the UK.

PSE spoke to Scott Le Vine, transport planner at Imperial College London’s

Centre for

Transport Studies and author of the report ‘Car Rental 2:0 – Car club innovations and why they matter’, to weigh the impact of car clubs on the public sector.

Watch and learn

As Le Vine was keen to emphasise, this is a time for councils to watch and learn, instead of diving into long-term binding contracts.

He said: “The public sector, in particular local authorities, will have to think about the degree do which they take actions to support [car clubs].

“There’s no single thing that the public sector should look for, or should expect to get. There’s a menu of options.”

With car clubs of various descriptions operational in many countries around the world, there is much experience the UK can learn from when looking to implement its own schemes.

Le Vine said: “The headline is to be careful and be flexible. I think we have to understand that we really can’t predict with a very high degree of accuracy what’s going to happen.

“We have to stand back and say: ‘Let’s let these things evolve, we’ll see where things go and let’s be flexible and nimble in how we deal with them.’ The advice I give now is to enter into fairly short-term contracts and see where things go.”

Revenue stream

One key driver for councils investing in car clubs, especially during cuts to public spending, is the financial return.

“In terms of direct impact on the public sector, one is certainly financial. In Washington DC, the cars generate – each – something like £2,000 revenue a year for their local authority. It certainly is a stream of revenue and can

He said: “The golden objective needs to be thought through and I would suggest the use of any particular form of transport shouldn’t be the end objective; that should be sustainability, wellbeing, economic development.”

Driver demographics

Car clubs could offer poorer residents the use of a car without upfront payments or maintenance costs. The promise of increased social inclusion seems a powerful draw for councils looking to promote equality and access to services.

“The advice I give now is to enter into fairly short-term contracts and see where things go.”

The objective

Although financial incentives and potential benefits for residents may be compelling, research has indicated that certain car club schemes actually reduce the public transport use. Le Vine cautioned that this is not a negative outcome in and of itself.

He said: “My research suggests these ‘one- way’ schemes [where cars do not have to be left where they were picked up from] compete more closely with public transport than the type of car clubs that we have today in the UK. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, is a bit of a tricky question.

Yet research to date suggests typical car club members mirror those of the Barclays ‘Boris Bikes’ scheme; middle-aged, male, well- educated and fairly well-off.

Le Vine said: “The $64,000 question is, are these types of people inherently attracted to the service? Or is it something about the way the service is put into place? In the latter case, that’s something that may be controlled, managed – that local authorities could have an impact on.”

He reiterated that with the industry in its infancy, we do not have all the answers yet, and this should not be a primary focus as long as those involved remain aware of the issues.

“TfL’s policy is – what I think is a good idea – to make sure that these services are as broadly available as possible in different types of places. For now I think that’s a realistic thing to look at.”

should generate wellbeing’

A new study for the RAC Foundation, Car Rental 2:0, covers a range of new innovations in the car club industry. PSE spoke to report author Scott Le Vine of the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London.

be used, in principle, for whatever the local authority deems appropriate.”

Street space that can be used for parking will become more valuable as the population rises and car clubs become more common within big cities, Le Vine predicts in his report.

“Kerb space in most dense cities is at a premium, parking is really the issue, whether it’s London, Birmingham or Manchester. The fact there’s such competition for parking space is a market that the local authority can exploit. I think that’s what you’ll see.”

“Local authorities shouldn’t be seen to generate public transport ridership just for the sake of it. The goal should be to generate wellbeing.”

The bigger question was whether local authorities could implement car clubs in the right way, managing impacts such as congestion, peak hours and pricing.

The move to greater car club implementation in the UK should be thought of as a venture into a new mode of transport, Le Vine suggested, and treated with the same level of strategic planning.

Scott Le Vine


public sector executive Jul/Aug 12 | 53

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