Comment to City of Sydney on a potential car share space in Elizabeth Bay

The City of Sydney recently advertised the potential allocation of a public car parking space to a car share scheme in Elizabeth Bay. This is the latest in the allocation of a number of public spaces to car share schemes.

Having thought about it a bit, I wrote a comment to Council about the proposal below.

Comment

Ref no: S034333-02 (2010/136170) 

I agree with allocating an existing onstreet car parking space to a car share parking scheme but that the space should be near Beare Park instead of at the intersection of Ithaca Rd and Elizabeth Bay Rd.

 Proposed location of car share parking space

I suggest that any car share parking space should be located near Beare Park (at the end of Ithaca Rd) or nearby in Billyard Ave instead of the proposed location near the intersection of Ithaca Rd and Elizabeth Bay Rd.

This is because a car share parking space near Beare Park would be much more accessible to residents with low mobility living in the Beare Park and Billyard Ave areas. The importance of access to transport for these residents was highlighted with the campaign against the withdrawal of the 311 bus route from Ithaca Rd, Billyard Ave and Onslow Ave. Articles in and letters to local papers (e.g. the Wentworth Courier) since the withdrawal of the bus route have highlighted the negative impact of the withdrawal of the 311 bus on these residents’ mobility.

I understand that relocating the proposed car share parking space would likely change the catchment area for its potential users. The number of users from the Roslyn Gardens/Rushcutters Bay area and Elizabeth Bay Rd loop areas may decrease. However, the number of users from the Beare Park/Billyard Ave area would likely increase. It should be noted that many people live in the Ithaca Rd/Billyard Ave areas – there are more than 1000 residences on Ithaca Rd, the Esplanade, Billyard Ave and Onslow Ave.

Should there be a car share parking space in Elizabeth Bay?

I commented above on where any car share parking space should be. Below I comment on whether there should be a car share parking space in the area by considering its following aspects at a conceptual level:

  • the nature of the car sharing scheme
  • impact on the numbers of people driving cars
  • impact on the supply and demand for onstreet car parking spaces
  • impact on traffic congestion
  • efficient use of the parking space, and
  • efficient use of cars.

After considering these issues, my comments are:

  • firstly, Council should treat businesses providing car hire services in a similar way to how it treats businesses providing car share schemes. This it to ensure competitive neutrality in the car hire market,
  • secondly, I agree with the proposal to allocate an existing public onstreet car park to a car share scheme. The car share space should be near Beare Park or in Billyard Ave instead of near the intersection of Ithaca Rd and Elizabeth Bay Rd,
  • I agree with creating a car share parking space as it would appear to be likely to decrease the demand for onstreet parking in the medium-to-long term, although it would potentially marginally increase traffic congestion and result in more inefficient use of the parking space.

It is difficult to consider the impacts of introducing a car share parking space in Ithaca Rd as the traffic system is a complicated system. Conceptually, an empirical assessment should be done on the impacts of introducing car share parking to date in inner-Sydney before one is introduced in Ithaca Rd. This should take into account that a car share parking space was introduced at the intersection of Greenknowe Ave and Onslow Ave, Elizabeth Bay, some time ago.

Nature of the car sharing scheme

The car sharing scheme is geographically dispersed short-term car hire. It is often cheaper to hire a shared car for a few hours than to hire a car on a daily rate.

There are many car hire firms in and near Kings Cross (e.g. on William St). The car sharing scheme could be replicated by an existing car hire firm buying local car parking spots and introducing hourly car hire rates. The essential difference between the car share scheme and the car hire businesses is that the former rents cars out on an hourly (or finer) basis while care hire businesses rent them out on a daily basis. It is interesting to note that the car share scheme involves the allocation of an existing scarce public resource (onstreet parking) to a particular use.

Given the similarity between the services offered by car hire businesses and by car share schemes, Council should treat these businesses similarly to ensure competitive neutrality in the car hire market. It is not clear that it does this at present.

Impact on the numbers of people driving cars

The car sharing scheme allows people to use cars while paying only variable costs. By comparison, car ownership involves high fixed costs and lower variable costs.

Being able to hire cars allows more people to drive them, as it can be cheaper to hire cars than to buy them. Having more people driving cars would tend to increase traffic congestion.

Having a car share parking space in Ithaca Rd may marginally increase traffic congestion as it slightly increases the supply of hireable vehicles, all other things being equal.

Impact on the supply and demand for onstreet car parking spaces

The proposal, if implemented, would immediately reduce the supply of onstreet parking spaces. It may also reduce the demand for onstreet car parking to a small extent in the medium-to-long term.

Any reductions in demand would appear to come about from locals selling their cars or not buying new cars following the introduction of the car sharing space.

While people would be unlikely to sell their cars following the introduction of a car share space in Ithaca Rd, they may react in the medium-to-longer term by not replacing their car or by not buying a new car (given the lower potential cost of the shared car).

Overall, the proposal would be likely to make parking onstreet slightly more difficult in the short term while making it slightly easier in the medium-to-long term.

Impact on traffic congestion

The likely impact of introducing car share schemes on traffic congestion appears unclear. They would appear to allow more people to drive (due to lower car usage costs) which would tend to increase traffic congestion. On the other hand, the shared car can only be used by one group of people at a time, which would tend to marginally reduce traffic congestion as the people subscribed to the car share scheme could not all drive the car at the same time (they could drive private vehicles at the same time).

Lastly, shared cars can only carry a small number of people unlike trains and buses, so traffic congestion would not be reduced through the shared car transporting a large number of people at once.

Efficient use of the parking space

The proposal would change the nature of the use of the parking space. Currently, the space can be used as parking for visitors and locals. Converting it to a car share space would restrict its use to locals subscribed to the car share scheme, effectively privatising it. It would also result in the space not being used by any vehicle when the shared car was being used. This appears to reduce the efficiency of the use of the parking space.

Efficient use of cars 

The car sharing scheme would be expected to result in more efficient use of cars (assuming hire prices were well-targeted) compared to cars being held privately as the fixed costs of the cars would be shared over many users. 

Regards,

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