"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0" http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007.jpg

Zipcar UK’s General Manager, Mark Walker, recently spoke at a Frost & Sullivan conference, “Urban Mobility 3.0 – New Urban Mobility Business Models”.  In attendance were Transport For London (TFL), European railway operators, global car manufacturers, car club / car sharing operators (like Zipcar), start-ups (like parkatmyhouse.com) and more besides. Here, Mark shares his perspective on the event and his vision for a more connected London.

The first day of the conference was a debate, held beside the terrace at the Houses of Parliament – a fittingly grand venue for a grand vision, while the remaining day’s sessions were held at the Crystal - the most “environmentally friendly building in the world” – and an architecturally bold example of what we can achieve, when we set our minds to it. The conference set out to engage industry influencers in a debate over the future of our transport systems, and how we should connect “mega cities” like London.

 

The Crystal, London (c) Flickr / bobchin1941

 

Here are some of the main takeaways that struck me:

 

Everyone agrees on the way forward

 

First and foremost, I was struck by the unanimous belief in certain “truths”:

  • Continued mass migration into cities: London's population is expected to grow by 14% by 2020;
  • The need for seamless integrated access to all modes of urban transportation, including all public transport, bike sharing schemes, taxis, car sharing;
  • The importance of the smartphone and open data, in order to achieve this level of intergration;
  • The car as an important part of this integrated urban mobility solution, when used appropriately

 

These factors combine, in my mind, to make a compelling case for an innovative, technologically-driven, and fully integrated transport solution. In a city like London, we have to be pushing this forward.

 

Car clubs enable the right kind of car use in cities

 

Within this “industry” audience, the pivotal role of car clubs, to keep our ever more populated cities moving, is now a given.  Even car manufacturers are investing millions to develop these services, as they understand the symbiotic relationship between car clubs and public transport. If you live in a city, and use public transport the majority of the time, you still need to be confident that when you really need a car – perhaps for that one-off trip to Ikea, or for a big monthly shop – you can enjoy easy access to one. In return, if you do end up using car clubs for occasional use (and perhaps not buying a car outright), then you must be able to depend on public transport for the majority of your needs.

 

London cyclist using the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (c) Flickr / futureshape

 

The beauty of this symbiotic relationship is that car clubs are an enabler for the best, smartest use of cars for city-based people and businesses. They are convenient for the user, help reduce congestion, save money and improve air quality. Generally speaking, car club members make smart, super-rational transport choices, every time they travel.  Once freed from the cash-sapping, depreciating asset that is an owned car, which tends to trap owners into selecting from a transport list of just one (regardless of the journey); car club members use public transport more, cycle more and walk more. They make an informed decision every time they travel, and choose the appropriate method for doing so.

 

In fact, 78% of car club members drive less than 3,000 miles per year and 60% drive less than 1,000 miles per year.  They only use a car when they really need to.  The result? Fewer cars owned, less cars parked, less cars on the roads, less harmful emissions; more public transport fares flowing into TFL, more cycling, more walking, more exercise, more efficient movement around the city.  How’s that for a win-win? (For more car club stats, head to the fact sheets on our media site.)

 

We still need to shine a light on the positive impact of car clubs  

 

However, there is just one sting in the tail.

 

At the Frost & Sullivan conference, an overview was presented of a recent report entitled: World Class: London's Transport - Progress and Future Challenges. The report – which runs to 123 pages – is extensive, yet it doesn’t bear a single reference to car clubs or car sharing.  The author, Professor David Begg, and many of those he interviewed for the report, understand the crucial role car clubs have to play in a “mega-city” like London, yet failed to mention it.  Why the blind spot?

 

So, what does modern urban mobility mean to you?

 

Behind the scenes, we’re working really hard with TFL and others to correctly place and profile car clubs in the urban mobility mix. We want to encourage more discussion around the future of transport, and to engage in a conversation about the role that all modes of transport (when used in the right way) can and should play in the future of big city infrastructure.

 

Bus and cyclists in London (c) Flickr / garryknight

 

So, with a view to overcoming future challenges and grasping new opportunities, I would very much like to know, what does the future of urban transport mean to you?

 

For example, how would you feel about:

  • Access to tube, rail, bus, bike and car club services from a single card?
  • Being able to pay for all these services from a single account?
  • Receiving cross-service discounts, e.g. car club membership earns you half-price bike hire access?
  • Tailored, bundled season tickets, e.g each month gets you 15-days on public transport and 24-hours car club use?

Here in Wimbledon, at Zipcar, we know that we are one part of ensuring London remains the most desirable global city in which to live, work and raise a family.  We are committed to doing all that it takes to make sure London’s transport options remain world class and we urge you to get involved too.  I would love to hear your views.

 

*"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0" http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007.jpg

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