Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peer reviews on momo memorandum on carsharing -- directed to the European Commission

Why this memorandum on carsharing and the European Commission?

- Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets
-  Read full report and peer commentaries here.

The sustainability agenda is not only important. It is critical.  Moreover it is critical for Europe and it is critical for the world.

Carsharing works and does an important job

In point of fact when it comes to sustainable transport in cities Europe is leading the way world-wide, as our cities one by one are starting to get control of motor cars  and in parallel begin to offer a broader array of better transport alternatives. There are more than two hundred cities across Europe today that are working on advancing the sustainable transport agenda though this two-pronged approach of car-control and new mobility options that work. And all of this against a background of near term actions that kick in within months and a few years at most. This is the proven European formula for sustainable mobility.

For this reason I have not been at all pleased by the manner in which the European Commission in their work in the area of sustainable transport and sustainable cities over the last years have passed by a number of key transition strategies, including the vital concept of carsharing. And I am not the only one. Here is what the momo European carsharing lead group had to say in their final report on "Transport-related problems in European cities", as presented at their final conference held at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 15 September 2011.

EU transport policy does not address car ownership
Taking into account both standing and moving vehicles, the amount of road space given over to personal vehicles is immense. Despite the fact that reorganizing the allocation of valuable space in our cities could lead to massive improvements in urban quality of life, European transport policy has not addressed the question of car ownership.

The European Commission 2011 White Paper, Transport 2050 - Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area, describes the problems but does not sufficiently develop the entire range of solutions. Technical solutions are in the foreground with electric mobility as the big hope.

But electric mobility alone will not solve our transport problems. For example, the space required for parking, road safety issues and the costs associated with congestion would all be unchanged.

The White Paper entirely overlooks Car-Sharing, a service that facilitates wider mobility options by optimise existing sustainable transport modes and reducing the need for car ownership. Car-Sharing serv¬ices also have the potential to create new jobs in the transport sector and serve as a testing ground for implementing alternative fuels and propulsion.

This is a major oversight. Not so much because a mode like carsharing is by itself going to take care of some major part of the movement requirements of any city. In most parts of the world its modal share will be quite modest, less than a percent and often much less. But don't be fooled by that small number. Let's not lose sight of the fact that no single non-car mode, even a ten billion dollar metro, is ever going to be able to accommodate more than a few percent of the total mobility requirement of a 21st century city.

No, the thing about carsharing is that it provides a necessary complement to all the other good things that we should be doing to make our cities and their transportation systems more efficient, affordable and fair. We like to think of carsharing as a "one percent solution", small perhaps but vital in the larger scheme of things. Because the great contribution of carsharing got right is that it not only provides a first class option when really personal mobility is needed, but also that it provides a great way to wean car owner/drivers from their wholesale reliance on their own vehicles. As the slogan goes, "you can't get there (sustainability) without it".

So when I was invited to chair the closing session of the 15 Sept conference, I decided to address the following broadside to a select group of colleagues with world level qualification on the topic. To this end, you will find just below my letter inviting their comments, followed in turn by the first handful of comments that came in (PDF).

* Read the full text of the draft  momorandum here.

# # #

Paris. Tuesday, 13 September, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

I would like to ask your views on a draft memorandum prepared by the momo European Car-Sharing program, challenging the European Commission to develop a more strategic and more intense involvement with carsharing as a key sustainable transport strategy for cities across Europe and the world.

It is my view that when it comes to carsharing and alternative forms of car ownership and use the European Commission is failing to do its job. Fascinated as they are by their overriding concerns for (a) the long term (at which point we all are dead, as Keynes so sharply reminded us) and (b) technology (which each time it comes up in this context ineluctably pushes its proponents to the long term (again). But by now it is clear: we shall never be able to get to sustainable mobility and sustainable cities without a good dose of carsharing. So what is holding them back?

This public conference is bringing together a range of highly informed people working in the field from several dozen European counties and is being held right under their nose in Brussels. It offers an excellent occasion to get the word out that it is high time for them to shift gears and get rolling on the carsharing agenda. I have the good luck to chair the final portion of the conference and make the recommendations and notes on findings that will have good visibility. So let me propose this. If you have any comments on the memorandum and its recommendations, I would be pleased to relay them to the conference and in the post conference documentation. If they are short, I can read them out. Longer ones I will figure out how to put them into the hands of one and all.

The key document for this is the attached proposed "Momorandum", which is aimed straight at the Commission and which I invite you to comment and further elucidate. You also may have some choice words to share with national government agencies and cities, both of whom of course have a major role to play in giving higher profile to this new and better way of getting around in our cities.

For my part I think that the Commission is not taking an informed or sufficiently active leadership position in this and other sustainability areas where they really should have the information, insight and wisdom (and daring) to plow ahead and be useful. As things stand they are spending a huge amount of hard-fought taxpayer money on projects and programs that are far far from the critical path, and in the process doing little to move us toward sustainable transport and sustainable cities. This is a terrible waste

If we put our heads together on this, perhaps we can help the EC and EU agencies more generally to develop more effective policies in this sector. We badly need them and who is better placed to lead the charge than Europe?

With all good wishes.

Eric Britton

Managing Director, New Mobility Partnerships
Editor, World Streets and the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice

Peer review dossier contents:

Eric Britton
World Streets/The New Mobility Partnerships
Paris France

Peer reviewers
Peder Jensen
Head of Energy and Transport Group
European Environment Agency
København K Denmark

Per Schillander
National expert , Car-Sharing/Car-Clubs and Car-Pooling/Ride-Sharing
Swedish Road Administration
405 33 Gothenburg, Sweden

Robin Chase
Founder, Zipcar
Fondatrice & CEO of
Paris, France and Cambridge USA

Dave Brook
Editor, Carsharing.US -
Carsharing Consultant Team-Red US
Portland, Oregon, USA

Karl-Heinz Posch
EPOMM Coordinator
European Platform on Mobility Management
8010 Graz Austria

Duncan Kay
AEA Technology plc
6 New Street Square
London EC4A 3BF

Stefano Orowitsch
Managing Director -StudentCar-
3062 PA Rotterdam
The Netherlands


Annex A: Momo Car-Sharing in Brief
Annex B: Conference program:
Annex C: World Streets on carsharing


* * * Read full report and peer commentaries here.

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