The automotive buzz words of 2017 were e-mobility, autonomy and car sharing. E-mobility aims to save the environment by delivering clean green modes of transport while it is claimed that driverless cars could reduce accidents by up to 90%. Car makers are also embracing car sharing as the uncertain future of car ownership makes sharing a flexible and affordable solution.
But car sharing and pooling are not new ideas and have worked for decades around the world, particularly for busy parents sharing the school run.
For Aileen Lennon, an IT consultant and mum of two the idea for her car pool came when her eldest son started secondary school. Her daily commute changed from a manageable to one a round trip of 50km so it was too far for daily runs and too expensive plus with an ever increasing amount of traffic to negotiate it was very time consuming. Within a short time it became clear that there were other families in the area who wanted to share and the car pool began.
““I only do 3/4 runs a week instead of a minimum of 10” Aileen says, “I also have a pool of people who can share the late runs after a hockey/rugby match, or do a pickup after an event.” she adds.
There are also significant cost implications, with some families spending up to €4000 annually on the drive to school in fuel costs and wear and tear to the average car,
And it’s not simply financial benefits, pooling resources with other parents has allowed Aileen to work the flexible hours required in her role as an IT Consultant. “I could be in the office in the city centre, at home, working with a customer here or anywhere in Europe so the restrictions of school runs every day wouldn’t suit me at all.”
Reducing the number of cars on our roads and increasing the number of people in each car could make a measurable difference to overall traffic congestion with school drop off and pick up times a major source of congestion problems in towns and it’s little wonder as at 8:50 am, almost one in five cars on the road are on the school run.
Romi Haughton Gray
Romi Haughton Gray from Wicklow has three 3 children in 2 different schools. “There are three other families nearby who attend one or both of my children’s schools and some of the same clubs and sports that my children go to so it makes perfect sense to car pool” says Romi. “With schools start times only a half an hour apart it is impossible to be in two places at the one time” she adds.
And car pooling is not simply for ferrying children to and from school, it can extend also to after school activities,
“In my case lifts are required locally for hockey practice with school, club hockey practice at weekends and matches can be within up to a 20 mile radius at the weekends; swimming, gymnastics, dodgeball, and athletics are within a 5 mile radius of home and/or school.”
“ The only way I survive it at all is by carpooling otherwise you could be stuck in the car for up to 3 hours in the afternoon, particularly if you have more than one pickup/drop-off for more than one child simultaneously”.
The are also some unexpected benefits from car pooling, it can also be a good way to make friends not only for the children, but for parents, too. If you have spare capacity in your car, even only one spare seat setting up a car pool system can be very easy. It can be done as a casual agreement with another parent or you could consider setting up a face book page to encourage other parents to get involved. If the local school has their own website or face-book page you could ask them to give it a mention.
The same principles of car pooling could be extended to work colleagues commuting within the same area. So why it is that large scale organised car pooling is not encouraged in Ireland? As policy makers and urban planners search for a solution to the gridlock congestion affects people’s quality of life; it costs businesses and creates poor air quality that contributes to illness and premature death.
Car Sharing in Ireland
In 2011, the National Transport Authority launched carsharing.ie, a website to encourage employers and their staff to become involved as car pooling schemes would mean that instead of five cars delivering five people to work only one car carrying five people would do the same. Companies with limited parking spaces can benefit while car sharing can also reduce stress, improve employee punctuality and increase social interaction.
But car pooling requires a change in commuter attitudes and unless real benefit is gained, the incentives are just not there. In order to convince commuters, dedicated car share express-lanes on busy roads and motorways as well as discounts on toll roads and even specially designated car spaces are needed.
Sharing vehicles may be still something of a rarity in Ireland but in a bid to tackle issues of congestion and pollution car pooling has real potential to become part of the solution. Other simple measures such as flexible working hours and remote offices would substantially improve commuting times.
In Dublin alone, traffic jams are estimated to cost the economy €350 million per year and could rise to €2 billion per year by 2033. And while increased public transport investment and effective planning strategies are all needed to alleviate the problem, car pooling measures facilitated by employers and educational institutions could be implemented rapidly with minimum cost and deliver immediate benefits.
The five golden rules of Car pooling
1) Car pooling is not a chauffeuring service, the convenience of having your child or children collected means you need to return the favour a few times a week also.
2) Be on time, it’s not only annoying to be late but there is also a safety issue as you are more likely to take chances when you are behind schedule.
3) Sooner or later, something will happen and someone will have to cancel so always have a back up driver.
4) Be careful of involving too many parents, the more parents that are involved the less you will have to drive but it may mean driving a much longer distance to collect and drop off kids when it’s your turn.
5) Drive safely and ensure you have the correct and properly fitted car seat for all children in the car.
22nd January, 2018