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18th Aug 2017

Magazine

Car-sharing's promise of clean cities

  • An alternative transport system proposed by the International Transport Forum would remove traffic congestion from the streets of Lisbon. (Photo: Chris Bentley)

Would you hand in your car, if you knew that public transport in your city could be completely overhauled and made more attractive?

Imagine if you could order a shared taxi with your smartphone, which would bring you door-to-door to your destination, without any transfers. You could book it in real-time, with a maximum waiting time of ten minutes, and you'd share it with a maximum of five others.

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Or perhaps you'd opt for the taxi-bus, which you would have to book thirty minutes in advance. It seats 16, and stops a maximum of 300 metres away from the departure point and destination, which a mobile application would show you where these are.

Whether you would give up you car, is a whole other matter. But a recent study showed what would happen to congestion and the environment, if all cars and buses in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon were replaced by shared taxis and shared taxi-buses.

"A car is used for about fifty minutes a day. The rest of the time it is standing still," Jari Kauppila told an audience at an energy conference in Berlin last March, when presenting the results.

The model of an alternative transport system in Lisbon was designed by the International Transport Forum (ITF), which is a think tank with members including all EU countries except Cyprus, operating under the wing of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"We can deliver the same mobility level with only 3 percent of the vehicles. It is a huge impact," said Kauppila, head of statistics and modelling at the ITF.

The report is called Shared Mobility: Innovation for Liveable Cities, and was partly funded by Uber, as well as by car manufacturers Ford and Volvo.

But the project's coordinator, Philippe Crist, told EUobserver that while the companies were given the opportunity to comment, the authors made the final call on the report's content.

They examined an alternative Lisbon, where transport is provided by two types of shared vehicles: the six-seat shared taxi, and the 16-seat taxi-bus.

Under the ITF's model, railway and subway services would continue to operate as they do now.

The expected results were stunning. "Congestion disappeared, traffic emissions were reduced by one third, and 95% less space was required for public parking in our model city, served by shared taxis and taxi-buses," the report stated.

Even though each car would be travelling 10 times more than at present, the model shows that "total vehicle-kilometres would be 37% less even during peak hours".

As a consequence of the more intensive use of the vehicles, they would have shorter life cycles. But that is a good thing, the authors noted, because it would mean that they are constantly being replaced by more modern – and thus cleaner – vehicles.

And perhaps most importantly, especially for those of us on a budget, the price of travelling would be reduced by 50 percent or more.

This article is part of EUobserver's annual Business in Europe magazine, which can be read in full here. This year, the magazine looks into how Europe manages the sharing economy. If you would like to receive the e-version of the magazine, please register for the newsletter.

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