Car Sharing Goes Up a Gear in London With Expansion of Zipcar Flex: As private car ownership continues to drop in London, car sharing is taking off
Zipcar Flex allows members to spontaneously jump into a car and drive one-way across London, with the ability to drop the car off in one of thousands of spaces within the ‘Zipzone’, which now covers an area of over 235 km2 across North and South London.
Members who utilise Zipcar Flex pay just 29p per minute and only for the exact time their trip lasts. Thanks to extras like the Congestion Charge, petrol and insurance being included in the rates, it’s now one of the cheapest and most convenient ways to get around London.
London borough councils seem to agree, with Zipcar Flex now available to residents in Wandsworth, Islington, Hackney, Lewisham, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Southwark and Merton. There are more boroughs in the pipeline as the service gains momentum and is planned to become more widely available, with the aim to get more Londoners to ditch their privately owned cars in favour of shared vehicles.
Zipcar Flex in numbers:
- 235 km2 – the size of the Flex operating area (‘Zipzone’) in London i.e. the size of Berlin
- 3.4m – the number of Londoners the scheme is currently available to
- 50% – Percentage difference between the cost of a typical Flex trip versus a trip with leading E-hailing companies
- 700 – the number of brand new VW Polos in the Flex fleet
- 8 – the number of boroughs in the current ‘Zipzone’
Jonathan Hampson, General Manager for Zipcar UK, said: “Car clubs traditionally operate from dedicated fixed bays, but what Zipcar Flex enables is for more Londoners to make smarter transport decisions and experience how much more convenient and cost-effective car sharing is compared to ownership. Zipcar Flex can unlock the potential of car sharing to significantly improve key issues like air quality and congestion for London.”
What’s more, compared to black cabs and ride-hailing companies, Zipcar Flex can be considered more efficient because journeys avoid so-called ‘empty miles.’ Cars are only driven when used by members and go point to point, unlike taxis that need to drive to find and pick up passengers before a trip starts. Fewer miles driven results in lower emissions per trip, making the service much more efficient and environmentally friendly.
|How Zipcar Flex compares on price for a 20 minute trip in London**:
**Driven at 16.8 mph (average Greater London speed according to TfL Report http://content.tfl.gov.uk/tlrn-performance-report-q1-2017-18.pdf)
Jonathan Hampson continued: “Zipcar Flex gives Londoners even greater flexibility to get around their city how they want to. It works hand-in-hand with public transport, cycling and walking to give Londoners the broadest choice to choose the right mode of transport when it comes to their specific journey needs.
“It’s about convenience, ease and saving money for members, but looking at the bigger picture, it’s also about taking more cars off London’s roads and helping to address the worsening issues of air quality and congestion, which we know are important to Londoners.
“Our research*** has shown that over half of Londoners have considered leaving London to live elsewhere in the past 12 months, with traffic, congestion, poor air quality and pollution levels cited as key issues. But attitudes need to change, people need to stop assuming that car ownership is a given and consider options available to them.”
Regular Zipcar Flex user, James Lamb from Wandsworth, said: “We used to own two cars, but now we only own one – and I’m considering ditching that too. We use a mix of Zipcar Roundtrip and Zipcar Flex, for shorter errands, all the time, it just makes much more sense living in a big city. And we’ve saved a lot of money since selling off the second car.”
For more information please visit http://www.zipcar.co.uk/flex
*Based on 2011 UK Census population figures: Merton 203,200, Wandsworth 306,995, Islington 215,667, Hackney 246,300, Lewisham 275,885, Lambeth 327,900, Waltham Forest 265,800
***Independent research carried out in May 2017 by Vitreous World amongst 2,000 Londoners on behalf of Zipcar
“The big takeaway is that (ride-hailing cars) are at least as efficient, if not more so, than personally owned vehicles,” said study co-author E.J. Klock-McCook, manager of the mobility transformation program at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The energy think tank said its motivation for the study is to give cities reliable ways to assess ride-hailed cars’ impact on “congestion, convenience, mobility cost, and carbon emissions.” The impact of Lyft and Uber on traffic has become a flash point in many cities, including the companies’ hometown of San Francisco. Some 45,000 Lyft and Uber drivers work throughout the Bay Area.
The report used a year’s worth of trip data provided by Lyft for San Francisco, New York and Chicago, covering Nov. 1, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2017. Lyft did not financially back the study. Using Lyft’s data, Klock-McCook said, sets this report apart from studies that rely on rider surveys or other indirect ways of getting information.
In San Francisco, the city where Lyft has operated the longest, Lyft trips were 24 percent more efficient than those in personal cars, according to Klock-McCook. The difference was modest in the two other cities, with Lyft rides calculated as 6 percent more efficient than personal cars in Chicago and 2 percent more efficient in New York.
Here’s how the study worked: For each ride, it added up the number of miles a Lyft car spent waiting for ride orders, driving to pick up passengers, and then actually giving the ride. It assumed that each regular Lyft ride held an average of 1.67 riders, based on previous studies. For Lyft Line rides, the company’s carpool option, it assumed that each averaged 2.67 passengers when a match occurred. (Some riders who request Lyft Line rides are not matched with other passengers. In San Francisco, close to half of all rides are Lyft Line, and about half of those have matches. In New York and Chicago, about a third of rides are Lyft Line; the company would not disclose how many are matched.)
The study then compared the miles per Lyft rider to the miles per rider for the same trip in a personal car. It used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data to assume that the personal vehicles largely had just one occupant. In San Francisco, it assumed the personal vehicles had 1.05 occupants; in New York, 1.02; and in Chicago, 1.06.
That difference in how many people were in the cars meant that the miles per person were lower in the Lyft cars.
“The study confirms what we believe: ride-sharing can help with some of the congestion problems we see,” said Joseph Okpaku, Lyft vice president of public policy. In fact, the company was founded to address the issues of people driving alone in personal cars, he said.
The study did not consider how long the personal cars might spend seeking parking, which would have shown them being even less efficient. It also didn’t account for the fact that some of the drivers’ miles with no passengers may have been for their personal transport.
Other researchers have drawn different conclusions about how Lyft and Uber cars affect traffic. A major study in New York last year found that ride-hailed cars averaged 11 minutes with no passengers between rides, and said this contributed to city congestion.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority led a study last year that used special software to calculate Lyft and Uber’s impact, finding that their cars rack up more than half a million vehicle miles a day within city bounds, and account for a fifth of all vehicles miles for trips that start and end within the city.
San Francisco went to court last year to force both companies to produce details on their San Francisco rides to help the city understand their impact. Andrea Guzman, a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office, said it is negotiating with Lyft over the release of its data and expects that to happen at a yet-to-be-determined time. The city has obtained a court order compelling Uber to provide most of its data by Feb. 14.
Both Lyft and Uber share data with their regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, but said they wanted to shield it for privacy and competitive reasons.
“The city has broad investigatory powers, which include the power to obtain information from third parties,” San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn wrote in the Uber court order. “That power is a prerequisite to the adequate enforcement of law.”
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @csaid