I’ve covered quite a few items on sharing or doing things together in my posts in the last year and it seems like the notion is really taking off in areas, in particular transportation. And while I’m on the subject, I must credit Dave Chiu for sharing some of these examples with me. I like sharing. Despite the fact the notion is seemingly completely at odds with the cultural psyche of the U.S., (which I often get told when I write about the concept of shared services – because American’s like to have their own cars and their own property and don’t see value in sharing), it is beginning to enter the vernacular here and is definitely on the rise in Europe. The powerful thing about sharing is that it not only saves on resources, and waste, but it also typically changes behaviors. Car sharing (ZIPcar and Streetcar) is a good example: people drive less ie, don’t drive unnecessarily when they share a car because a) it’s a cost and b) others are using it. Sharing a meal with someone is very sexy too. And it always tastes better! What does it change? Possibly means eating less or wasting less as you don’t have to ordered loads to taste lots of things. New York has just had a trial bike scheme. Forum For Urban Design and Storefront for Art and Architecture organized a bike-sharing five-day charette. The Gothamist reports on how successful it was, but to be fair, for this to work it has to really have critical mass. The scheme only ran for a five days. One of the biggest barriers to cycling (research done in the UK by the Department For Transport - I worked on it) was that people simply hadn’t experienced cycling for years and then second to that was fear of the bike being stolen. Getting people on bicycles by doing share schemes or bike events is a great way to kick-start the habit. Once there are more people cycling or more bicycles available for cycling, more people will be on it. You ask any cyclist (like me!) how many stories we share with non-cyclists, who then go get a bike or borrow one and are converted. New York is not cycle friendly, but put the bikes out there, get people on them and more will do it. It happened in London after the July 7th bombings. Cycling went up 50% or more. More people doing it got more people doing it.
Worldchanging.com have just reported on a bike story in France. It’s buying its citizens bikes – 22, 000 of them! The program is paid for by an outdoor advertiser in exchange for use of 1,628 urban billboards. People can rent the gray bicycles for 1 Euro ($1.38) a day or a weekly pass for 5 Euros ($6.90). The fee gets you 30 mins of cycling then you pay more in small increments after that. I’d like to see a Tri-State bike scheme here, with advertising involved but only promoting products and services that deliver value to the social and environmental bottom line. In fact, I'd like to get it going here in NYC if anyone is interested in helping me do it.
Other share things going on include Carsplit. It is a service for Columbia University students that forms groups of students going to the airport at the same time to split the cost of a taxi ride. So simple, so relevant. Actually, I’d quite like the service for airport journeys too. Especially arriving at the airport when you know half the people standing the queue are going your way too.
The Green Car Congress recently reported on a seed-stage company, Texxi, in the UK who has developed a system that collates request for point-to-point travel from a dispersed set of travelers via SMS (they send a text-message by cellphone their destination postcode to the system) and then travelers going in the same direction into one vehicle at a discounted rated. Passengers are instructed to go to predetermined pickup points to meet the driver who will have received the text message confirming the passengers booking reference. The prototype service is up and running in Liverpool.
And sharing can be done in style and service too.
I reported on Oxford Tube a while ago on Treehugger. Well Limoliner is the equivalent for trips between New York and Boston to compete with flying and that damn unreliable Acela train (which sadly means few take it to do this trip). Limoliner is basically the same concept as Oxford Tube (ps. the website is diabolical which is not so clever). It is public/shared transport with service and style – 28 passengers, state-of-the-art coach offering wireless access, clear and constant cell phone access, on board attendant and workable for meetings.
Share, share, share. I reckon it's sexy, social, and so of the moment.
Written by Tamara Giltsoff