Car-sharing revisited

In a recent article in The Royal Gazette, Premier Brown is suggested to still be in talks with international business about how to have fewer cars on the road and ease traffic congestion.  Unfortunately, Premier Brown far too often takes a win-lose approach to solving the issues of our island and fails to recognize that innovative solutions already exist to curb the number of cars and congestion.  It’s called car-sharing.

Premier Brown’s recent suggestion that the PLP have kept their promises with regards to transportation may find at least a few people who disagree with him.   Disagreements aside, his other plans for transportation in the future may still be lacking, as despite offering free public transport, this writer (who has free access to public transport due to his conscription in the regiment) still doesn’t take it.  The reason has on numerous occasions been pointed out where service still needs improvement, and the month of or after the election would be a hard indication of promises kept.  Further, there is still the whole issue of taxis that GPS failed to solve, especially when you need to catch a flight.

Premier Brown should take a moment out of his busy schedule to read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or, if he finds himself too busy to read, he could always have his driver pop the audiobook version in the audio player while he’s being chauffered around in his police escorted limosine.  By doing so, he would gain the insight of habit #4 of thinking win-win when approaching various issues related to our island.  A win-win approach to solving the traffic approach wouldn’t look upon our international business to take a loss by being asked to solve our problems for us.  Instead, we should be looking for win-win situations where noone is forced to compromise and both gain the desired result.

As suggested all the way back in April, a win-win approach to solving our traffic congestion woes is to introduce legislation that encourages car sharing businesses.  Car sharing, which has achieved considerable success around the world, would offer individuals the benefits of being able to use a car such as getting groceries, having friends visit, transporting things purchased in town and even carrying kiteboarding gear when there’s a little wind.  All without the drawbacks of the high expense of taxi’s and the pains of actually getting one.  Many people, even those such as this writer, often get a car just as a means to satisfy these needs that present transportation solutions do not adequately address.  Car-sharing legislation should be an obvious win-win solution that Bermudians and ex-pats alike could take advantage of to solve our own traffic woes.

Premier Brown may think promises have been kept and indeed many things have been done, but yet there is still a long way we need to go.  We could be taking a win-win approach to solving the issues of our island and taking heed of innovative solutions that are being used elsewhere in the world to solve the issues of traffic congestion.  Car-sharing happens to be one such example.

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5 thoughts on “Car-sharing revisited

  1. So, there are now new buses being bought for St Davids, and I hear that we will be getting a NEW ferry stop at BoazIsland… yay… all as a result of the people’s requests.
    Lets forget that there was ALWAYS a ferry stop at Boaz Island, and it was the good Dr. that shut it down in the first place.

  2. Denis,
    You might be interested in this Letter to the Editor if you haven’t seen it already. Coincidentally, it was sent/printed on 15th November ’06. There’s mention of car clubs therein, relevant to your car sharing in your posting. Formatting likely will be lost, but you’ll get the gist.
    In solidarity,
    15th November 2006
    Dear Editor:
    I’ve been meaning to write this memo for years, for I returned to the Island some time ago an enthusiastic user of HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes and believe the concept could be applied here with success. In addition, a number of other suggestions to improve our congestion and traffic problems come to mind that I’d like to share.
    The problems didn’t surface overnight. And they’re not going to go away overnight or without some paradigm shifts and adjustments – perhaps grumbling – from most of us. If we think the problems are serious, it’s time to get serious about the solutions.
    Here are some suggestions, most of which are used elsewhere to address traffic or other issues. Hopefully, they’ll at least serve as the catalyst for discussion that’ll lead to solutions implemented in Bermuda. Here goes:
    Establish HOV lanes
    A HOV or “High Occupancy Vehicle” lane is an inbound or outbound part of a road where at certain times any vehicle other than a bike/scooter or public transportation vehicle travelling on it in a certain direction must have a minimum number of people in that vehicle. For instance, if Harbour Road were HOV-3 from 7.30-9.30 a.m. eastbound and 4-6 p.m. westbound each workday, any vehicle on the Road heading east between 7.30 and 9.30 a.m. or west between 4 and 6 p.m. must contain at least 3 people, children included (not pets). Any Harbour Road resident would not be exempt, but must access his/her residence from a direction opposite when HOV is in force. Police could monitor this with heat-seeking devices with violators facing heavy fines.
    Encourage “slugging”
    NO! This is not some sort of lettuce or animal concoction, but a win-win transport method for both passenger and driver. It’s simple, and having used it myself know that it works.
    Given HOV-3 lanes, how to have at least 3 people in your vehicle? Pick up “slugs” at appointed parking areas or elsewhere along the roadside before using the HOV lane and dropping them off in Hamilton en route to the vehicle’s parking spot. Inbound slugs drive from home to designated parking areas at major grocery stores or elsewhere along the way where they’re picked up by a driver wanting to use the HOV-3 lane and needing more passengers. The stores benefit from commuters’ business in the evenings when they purchase items on their way back from work. There would be several designated slug pickup spots in Hamilton in the evening, depending on which HOV lane the outbound slug and driver intend to travel.
    Establish a congestion charge in Hamilton
    The number of vehicles entering London during weekday work hours has noticeably dropped since London introduced its “congestion charge”, which is a fee any non-public vehicle entering a certain central area at any time during the workday must pay. Most drivers pay in advance on account or on the day of travel. Given its congestion-reducing success, why not establish a similar program for non-public vehicles entering Hamilton during weekday rush hours? Or, in conjunction with HOV/slugging, with fewer than 3 people in them?
    Encourage schools (particularly those near Hamilton) and Hamilton-based businesses to set up carpooling programs
    Rush hour traffic into Hamilton is quite different depending on whether school’s in session. Setting up HOV lanes and a congestion charge will help, but if Bermuda’s going to get “sustainable” I hope this will extend to “encouraging”/requiring school and business carpooling programs, particularly for Hamilton area schools and large employers, including Government.
    Increase the amount of bike space on the ferries
    You can’t operate the ferries to accommodate everyone, but more bike spaces at least will encourage folks to use public transport for a part of their daily commute.
    Cap the number of cars and trucks permitted on the roads
    We do this for taxis don’t we, so why not for cars and trucks?
    For our area, population, and number of paved dual track roads, determine the reasonable number of cars we “should” have. As of a certain date cap the number of cars able to be licensed on our roads. So if you want to drive a car on our roads after that date your car will need a permit number. This probably would involve developing a permit number system instead of using assessment numbers, which would work in hand with several other suggestions below. Certainly it would require strong disincentives such as confiscating the cars of violators.
    Similar concept for trucks.
    If we haven’t reached the limit already, then cap the issuance of permit numbers per residential development, e.g. in an apartment block of a main unit and 3 smaller ones, issue only one permit number. For condo developments similarly reduce the number of permit numbers issued.
    Create a free market system for the renting and sale of permit numbers
    If you have a car permit number you have the option of using it to register and drive a car here, selling the permit number, or renting it to someone else. So car permit numbers could be traded in a free market system.
    This concept is similar to electricity generators and other companies elsewhere buying and selling pollution credits to meet government environmental standards. It could be applied here.
    Allow car clubs to operate
    Club members purchase points, which they can use toward renting different sized vehicles from the Club’s fleet for a number of hours/days per month. Different membership levels permit use of different sized vehicles and/or amount of rental time. Thus, those of us who only want a car for occasional use could be accommodated and there’d be a more efficient use of vehicles. Club dues would include repair and maintenance, insurance, licensing, etc. Like renting a car, members pay for gas.
    Make Traffic Enforcement a profit center
    Manage it as you should a business and hire as many police as is cost effective to enforce traffic regulations. Remember, unlike most other police divisions, traffic cops writing tickets earn Government revenue. Run as a business to address a problem, the cops might be incentivized based on the amount of revenue collected, requiring not only an accurate writing of tickets, but an efficient prosecution and collection system.
    Enforce the notion that if you speed, you’re going to get caught. And if you get caught, you’ll be fined heavily and perhaps your vehicle will be confiscated. It’s human nature to continue behavior until we’re incentivized or deterred to change it. Clearly, the excessive speeding continues. Clearly, the current system isn’t working well enough. Changing how Traffic Enforcement is operated could be a start.
    Expand public transportation service & target breakeven rather than profitmaking operations
    Not that the bus and ferry service/timetables are bad. But I hear repeatedly that the buses don’t travel on a nearby road so folks who would like to use public transport to commute can’t easily.
    If you’re going to recraft how people think about commuting to/from Hamilton, I urge you to put more public buses – perhaps minibuses at rush hours only – on the well-travelled but secondary roads to appeal to a broader range of commuter.
    Too, the setting of public transportation fees should be part of the big picture: Make them compellingly inexpensive to encourage broader use of the services. As part of a transport strategy, the series of disincentives to drive a car solo into Hamilton at rush hour should be matched by some incentives. Rather than trying to operate public transport at a profit, why not reinvest any surplus funds to augment service and depress fares to appeal to as many people as possible?
    Set annual vehicle (re)licensing fees on a mix of factors
    Currently these fees are based on a vehicle’s size. If Bermuda is serious about pursuing a sustainable development strategy, why not base these on a combination of factors, including engine and vehicle sizes, fuel consumption e.g. mpg, pollution emitted (nitrous oxides, particulates, etc.) per the manufacturer’s representations or a non-biased testing group, type of fuel used, etc.?
    Focus on Southside as a business hub
    Not an easy sell given the current lack of amenities compared to Hamilton, but its location close to the Airport, free of Hamilton congestion, proximity to TeleBermuda (free of the Telco “last mile” telecommunications bottleneck/costs), and lower office rents would seem to offer some firms a viable office location alternative to Hamilton office space. Can Government, in conjunction with the BLDC, offer firms incentives to locate there?
    Thinking about bottlenecks and some minor things to improve traffic flow
    A lot of this is common sense. For example, traffic flow into Hamilton at rush hour: Why does the lane furthest left stop at all? Identify and address the impeding factors, e.g. the traffic light for container trucks turning to the #8 shed area near the Front Street East peace dove or cars turning west (i.e. right) from King Street onto Front Street. Another could be timing traffic lights so that there’s better flow.
    I look forward to reading others’ comments and to these being catalysts to seriously address our traffic issues. They’re not going to be liked by everyone. But, as I’ve written above, these didn’t develop overnight. It’s going to take some hard and probably unpalatable medicine to effectively address the issues as part of a broad transportation strategy for Bermuda.
    (FOr a Better Bermuda)
    cc: Dr. Ewart Brown, Transport Minister
    Jamahl Simmons, Shadow Transport Minister

  3. This is one area that I think Dr Brown is not adequately equipped to address because he doesn’t have much personal experience with public transport.
    The expanded bus service, as pointed out by Limey recently, still hasn’t been implemented. Dr. Brown mentions minibuses for St David’s; what about Devil’s Hole for instance?
    As it looks, there’s no end in sight to more single-occupied cars piling on our roads especially during rush hour, as incentives to do otherwise aren’t increasing.

  4. Government may have already decided on one form of traffic control but has yet to make the decision public.
    Soon after 3M’s Traffic Safety Systems Division was awarded the contract to install the new RFID system(in May of this year), a local TCD spokesperson was quoted by a U.S. media outlet as saying that one of the (longer term) goals of the system was to utilise its abilities to enforce the implementation of congestion controls.
    I don’t believe it was David Burt (Chairman of the PLP) who was quoted as the source, even thought his company, GMD Consulting, appears (at a bare minimum) to have been sub-contracted to deal with the actual vehicle installation/monitoring portion of the contract at an undisclosed (likely significant) cost to the ultimate users (i.e. us the taxpayer).
    Given government’s track record of poor advance planning, lack of adequate public/industry consultation and horrendously shoddy implementation I wouldn’t be surprised if anything is successfully rolled out within a year from now.
    Side note:
    I wonder how much of that $11 million dollars in apparently (more like anecdotally) lost revenue (expected over the next five years) has been collected to date?
    Has anyone seen the actual RFID readers installed on our roads?
    Can someone from TCD please quantify the total dollar amount ACTUALLY RECEIVED to date as a result of the automated ticketing information generated by this new system?
    Based on the “new” ticket revenues received thus far, when is it expected to pay for its $2.4 million dollar price tag?
    And finally, as Mr. Burt has publicly stated his company is involved with “project management for public sector IT initiatives”, how much of that $2.4 million is GMD Consulting receiving with regard to their participation with the RFID program and what other forms/methods of remuneration are GMD consulting receiving from this and all other government contracts? One would think that Mr. Burt, as Chairman of the PLP, would be duty bound to disclose all sources of revenue he or his company are receiving from government contracts.

  5. i don’t know if it’s applicable but in toronto they have zip cars and auto-share – both co-ops that allow members to rent cars by the hour for errands – it’s a great service and the pricing and mileage charge makes it prohibitve to take it for the weekend or something. it’s great 4 people who live downtown and bike to and from work and to dinner etc.
    all this 2 say that i don’t know if it could wrk there but it does wrk well here.

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