By John Moyle
The car sharing model has been around in Australia since two friends in Newtown came up with the idea for GoGet cars, which is undoubtedly now the largest car share company in Sydney.
Since its inception in 2003, GoGet now has over 2,700 cars and 100,000 members in its network across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide, all living without a car of their own but having the right to access a car by the hour or day as they need it.
The company claims each GoGet car removes 12 individually owned cars off the road, and argues this improves local parking, which in the inner city and CBD is at a premium.
The company also claims a benefit to cost ratio of 6:1 for the community, way above that of traditional transport options.
GoGet, and two other entrants to the market, Car Next Door and Flexicar have been wholeheartedly embraced by the City of Sydney which now dedicates 779 car share spaces across its local area.
In 2016 City of Sydney said that car shares had over 21,000 resident members and over 7,500 business members using the services.
The car share companies pay the City of Sydney $166 annually per space.
From being disruptors before the word was part of the lexicon, car shares should be riding on a high, but in recent months there has been a concerted backlash played out in the media.
What went wrong?
Since car shares were first adopted by the City of Sydney in 2007, Darlinghurst resident Robyn Hall has been waging a war against the encroachments of car shares on parking spaces in her locality.
“In 2007 when car sharing first started I was at a meeting at Kings Cross Police station and I gave my opinion which was “if it didn’t take up the community car spaces that was fine, and I was told by John McInerney (then planner at the City of Sydney) that there would be only two,” Ms Hall said.
“Now there are about 70 or more public street spaces being used by car shares in the area and people coming here to do business, visit or shop just cannot find parking.”
“We hear that complaint a lot, all car share businesses face this from what we think are a very vocal minority,” Kate Trumbull, spokesperson, Car Next Door said.
Car Next Door is another Australian company with one difference to GoGet, it does not own cars but uses those owned by its members.
“People get upset because the car share space is reserved and theirs aren’t, so when they see an empty space and they are not allowed to park in it, it creates frustration, whereas our model is free floating where the cars fit into the mix.”
Waverley Council has just dedicated four car spots to Car Next Door, where the company has been operating a peer-to-peer service for a number of years.
Christine Forster is a City of Sydney Councillor who has lived in Surry Hills and Potts Point and takes issue with the car share model.
“I am not opposed to car shares, but I am very much against what I see as the City of Sydney selling the residents short,” Cr Forster said.
“On-street parking is an extremely scarce resource and the rate payers don’t get a return on the rent from these car share companies.
“The other aspect is that there is zero consultation with the community where they want to put a new car share space.”
A City of Sydney document covering car shares states “The City will consult with residents and businesses in the immediate vicinity of a proposed on-street space.
“Proposals to allocate on-street car share spaces will be considered by the Local Pedestrian Cycling and Traffic Calming Committee.”
Robyn Hall says there has been no consultation in her area and claims increases in allocated spaces are causing problems in her community.
“Parking is shocking around St Vincents Hospital and there are about 10 or 12 car share spaces just sitting there, and people needing those spaces can’t access street parking.”
Ms Hall adds “tradespeople do not want to visit to do repairs and some residents need to purchase a book of day pass permits for $50”.
“GoGet takes an average of 12 vehicles off the road for every GoGet car, freeing up an estimated 100 kilometres of parking on the streets,” Jonathan Englert, head of communications, GoGet Carshare said.
It’s evident that car shares are here to stay, and as densities increase in the inner city, it may become the preferred mode of transport other of public transport options, which are often inadequate.
The City of Sydney says that there is an average of 40 members per on-street space and that these spaces constitute around 1.6 per cent of the City’s non-CBD general street parking.
With transport accounting for 12 per cent of greenhouse emissions in the city, City of Sydney says car shares are contributing to its target reduction of greenhouse gases by 70 per cent.
As the uptake in car shares grows, so must community consultation.