Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Streetcar Comes To Haringey

Streetcar have set up what is being called a car club in Haringey. The scheme allows residents to hire a car from one hour upwards and collect and drop off the vehicle from one of twenty one designated parking places around the borough. http://www.streetcar.co.uk

I suppose that this is a step in the right direction, in that if the scheme catches on, it should reduce the number of vehicles on Haringey’s roads, and therefore reduce CO2 emissions from the reduced car population. It remains to be seen whether this is what does occur in practice, as there are a lot assumptions behind this being the case.

The costs of motoring has actually declined over the last ten years, but it is still pretty expensive owning and running a car, so in these lean economic times, it could offer a way of reducing household budgets, whilst still allowing access to a car when it is really needed. On the other hand, it may encourage people who at the moment do not own a car, to use this service, rather than public transport, and so actually increase the amount of traffic on our roads.

To my way of thinking, a car club is when a community decides to share a number of cars, rather than all own individual cars. Obviously, members of the community would need to organise and administer the club and share the running costs of the vehicles, but there would be no profit imperative. Streetcar is, I think I am right in saying, a commercial organisation that needs to make a profit from the scheme, which is in effect an unnecessary overhead cost. Indeed the price of nearly £40 per day hire charge is broadly similar to cost of traditional car hire.

We will see how it develops, and it is Green Party policy to support these types of car clubs, but I am always suspicious of companies wanting to make money out of green type initiatives.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike
I think you are being over wary about Streetcar and similar companies. They've been very popular in Lewisham and can play an important role in reducing both the number of cars on the road and car ownership levels. The evidence shows that for every car club car on the road between 4 and 12 (depending on what research you believe) cars disappear/aren't bought. If you own a car, you 'want to get your money's worth'. If you're in a car club, you think before you use the car and often use public transport/walk/cycle the rest of the time. I think Haringey Green Party should be wholeheartedly supporting them, as we have been in Lewisham.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

It's a personal view Sue, not a policy position from Haringey Green Party. Indeed one of my colleagues is planning to put the same case as you here on the blog. By the way, where does the evidence that you mention come from?

Jonathan said...


Just happened to come across your blog note so thought I would give a Streetcar point of view.
Two main things I would say - the research was done by TfL in 2007 and showed that nearly 50% of car club members either give up their car to join a car club or forego a planned car purchase. It also showed that car usage drops 68% after joining and that public transport usage goes up. We now gather our own data by asking our members their car situation before joining and it mirrors this study very closely indeed.
The only other thing I would say is your thoughts on commerciality and profit being an unecessary overhead. Car clubs have been around for a number of years in various guises and it is only with this commercial model that it is being shown to work. Car clubs will have their largest effect, the more people that join them so, if it takes a commercial company to make this concept popular I am not sure this should be seen as a bad thing!

Jonathan (Streetcar)

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Thanks for the pointer on TfL study Jonathan, I'll try and take a close look at it, and perhaps we can revisit the issue.

On the commerciality issue, one thing that is controversial is that Streetcar appears to have been given a monopoly position in Haringey, which obviously has implications for the whole venture. I'd still like to see Haringey council encouraging community car clubs with some kind of incentives.

Jonathan said...


No problem. Boroughs all over London are making decisions as to whether to offer single-operator or multi-operator contracts for car club provision. Around 60% currently (as with Haringey) have single operator contracts. The reason for this is relatively simple:
- All research shows that car club members rarely join more than one club (as forking out multiple membership fees isn't particularly practical or cost effective). If you are introducing a limited number of bays into the borough (as Haringey is with the TfL funding they have been granted) by splitting the bays between a number of operators, all you a really doing is limiting the choice of vehicle that each resident can use. Car clubs are built on a network approach that ensures decent availability. If your first choice car isn't available you have a 2nd, 3rd, 4th choice also within close proximity. This is what makes it a viable concept. The fairly accepted wisdom (though it is still much debated) is that if you are introducing 100+ bays then multi-operator works very well (as demonstrated in boroughs like K+C) but for less than 100, single operator is what will best serve residents.
- Re Community Car Clubs - all councils and boroughs, as standard, require any car club requesting on-street bays to be CarPlus accredited - this is a way of ensuring that minimum standards are met, reporting is carried out etc. As part of the tender process all accredited car clubs were invited to tender and Haringey picked who they felt would offer their residents the best service. This does not as you imply rule out others from operating in the borough. Streetcar has been operating in Haringey now for nearly 2 years in bays that we have rented privately (driveways, car parks etc) as we wanted to try and satisfy the demand that we were seeing in the borough without on-street spaces being available. Across London 50% of our spaces are on-street and 50% off street so I would stress that there is no such thing as a monopoly when it comes to car club provision and that the barriers to entry are only ones that are put in place to protect the concept from abuse hence the need for CarPlus accreditation.

I really hope that we see car clubs in Haringey flourish in the way that they are across London and it would be nice to feel that we have the Green Party support as we try to do this.


Mike Shaughnessy said...

All very interesting Jonathan. I’ve not got around to studying the TfL research as yet, but I will do. It does beg the question though, why Haringey council chose only a small number of on road parking bays, but that is a question them, rather than Streetcar. I still do stick by my preference for community owned car clubs and that the council should be offering some incentives to encourage their formation. Good discussion though.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Having looked on the Tfl website, details of their car club survey are somewhat limited. One thing I did notice is that although car ownership seems to fall amongst car club users, almost half (49%) did own a car anyway. These people are now driving around London, when before they joined the car club, they weren't!