8 January 2010

Getting us some Zipcar like options in Canberra

| songcarver
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Like many of you I desperately want to do better for the environment. But, also like many of you, I find the alternatives to driving a car within Canberra a bit…erm…lacking.

Being a small town we have some decent but limited bus services, but no trains, trams, ferries or light rail. So it can be a bit hard to get around without owning a car.

[Just a few days ago I was in Brisbane, visiting my birthplace and parents. Also travelling with me was my born-in-Canberra girlfriend who couldn’t believe that major bus services ran late on Sunday nights every 15mins. It wasn’t until we were standing outside the stop (with cool LED bus times displayed above) that she believed me.]

One solution which I think may suit canberra well is the Zipcar-like service. Basically it works like this:

  1. Become a member, pay a bond and a monthly fee.
  2. When you need a car, look on the web for one thats close to you, and book it
  3. Walk to the car, parked in a dedicated on-road park.
  4. Drive around as much as you like, incur a reasonable hourly rate + per/km rate. Cheaper than normal rental car
  5. Return to one of the designated parking spots. Eg. Sydney map for Goget’s parking ‘pods’:
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In Australia, there are two companies I know that offer this:

http://www.goget.com.au/ and http://flexicar.com.au

Goget, for example, services Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, but not Canberra. And although Canberra is small in population, I would think it’s ranking as the highest income-per-capita city might make it a reasonable market. live in the Kingston/Manuka area and think it would be a perfect candidate for a park.

I’m asking here for support — if, like me, you’d like these cool services to come to our nations capital, just go here:



Thanks for your help! It’s much appreciated.

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troll-sniffer6:54 pm 11 Jan 10


What percentage of the population do you think are going to walk to Dickson to pick up the car? Or wait for a bus to go there, that sorta defeats the purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, I reckon the idea of shared vehicles is brilliant. But far from having a whinge as some of the nicer members here have insinuated, I am only pointing out the limitations of a spread-out garden city already well supplied with cars. Canberra is full of great idealists who are sure someone can make commercial operations work despite the odds. A classic example was the residents committee set up to voice anger at the closure of the Giralang shops. “How dare the business owner close his business in our local shops? Who does he think he is?” etc.

If you can get a successful business person in the transport sector to agree that this is a concept that could work in Canberra then I will gladly eat my negative comments, I can’t be fairer than that can I?

Despite all the nay-sayers, I think its a great idea – exactly what a city like Canberra needs. I lived in Washington DC for a few years and hire a Zip car a few times. Other friends used them on a regular basis – to do the shopping, to go site-seeing etc. Washington DC is certainly safer than what it was in the 80’s (when it was the murder capital of the world) but it still has quite a high crime rate. Still, the zipcars we hired were always clean, fueled up and easy to access. The system worked well, never arrived to find the car missing – as troll-sniffer has suggested.

I’ve also ridden around in Paris on hire bicycles – two euros a trip – its another brilliant idea that Canberra should get on board with!

I seem to recall hearing a statistic about Canberra having more cars per capita than any other Aus. city… but can’t be arsed looking for a link. Also, given the relative quiet on the streets at night around this town, vandals seem to have the run of the place.

I’d be curious to see it in action. Though it does seem more designed for a city with a large, central CBD as opposed to the spread-out town centre planning of Canberra. For eg; I looked up my brothers address in northern Sydney and the nearest car was 87 minutes walk away! If that’s what they can offer in a city of some 4.2 million people then I hate to think what it would be like down here.

I’ve seen these car share sites before, thanks for the links. I’d use it – more cost effective than owning or renting utes or trailers or people movers for the few times I would need one, and more convenient than the Canberra bus system.

Good on you for trying to get something like this going, its a pity the Canberra government doesn’t take more initiative to bring shared car services here, experience in other cities show that when the local city “council” get on board these services flourish and are very viable for a city our size, take a look at many cities in Canada of a similar size and see what type of varied transport options they have including shared car services. I am not a car owner atm but will become one in the next 6 months or so now, and I would utilise a service like this if it wasn’t for the fact that im already living in Queanbeyan to avoid Canberra rent prices. That said I do believe that a system like this could be viable in Canberra.

georgesgenitals7:40 pm 08 Jan 10

I bet these flexicars fairly hammer in reverse…

It could be quite a vanguard move for Canberra if such a service taps into the possible electric car network coming to Canberra. A great try-before-you-buy opportunity.

moneypenny26127:08 pm 08 Jan 10

I think this is a great idea. To all the nay-sayers, it wouldn’t be a sole transport solution (certainly not initially), so rather than expecting a car at the almost derelict Hackett shops, instead you’d focus on high traffic areas like the town and group centres or universities.

So, you’d collect a car at Dickson shops, go to Magnet Mart or Gundaroo or whatever, return & drop your shopping at home, and then return the car to Dickson. It’s basically a car hire arrangement charged by the hour (not by the day). The insurance risk seems to be factored into the price of membership.

In other cities, the start-up has often been supported by local government and businesses. In Adelaide, a property developer hosts a flexicar at one of his display villages / new estates for the benefit of new residents and local businesses. Elsewhere, the Adelaide City Council has hosted a spot on the southern fringe of the city. Most residences there are units, row cottages or terraces with limited or no private car accommodation and prohibitive parking fees in the public parking stations – a communal run-around car makes sense there.

Seems like a great idea. It could probably work in Canberra but I reckon it would be a shakey start until it was fully set up.

I don’t think starting with a few cars would work here, unfortunately you’d have to start off with a sizable fleet to make it convenient and attractive to us cynical Canberra types.

I recall a town bicycle system in Vienna. Worked well for a while until some dodgy eastern Europeans came across the border and stole all the bikes!

I utilised the ZipCar services many times when I lived In Washington DC.

I was surprised that it even existed at first, and then realised how handy it is.

It’s good to see that a couple of businesses have launched in Australia. I would like to see Canberra become involved as well, but due to our size, I doubt there would be a lot of punters interested in using it..

plausibly_deniable2:58 pm 08 Jan 10

Songcarver, this site is unfortunately more frequented by cynical smartarses than positive futurists. For every instance of infrastructural and societal progress, there have always been do-nothings sitting on the sidelines whinging.

Sadly, cars would be wrecked in weeks.

I think you’ll find that lots of Canberrans wouldn’t be comfortable with the idea of shelling out $$ for something that may or may not be there, may or may not be damaged, may or may not have sufficient fuel, and still incurs the traffic and parking hassles (and cost) of owning your own.

The biggest problem, though, is that lots of Canberra is too spread out for the depots to be near enough to the average user’s home to make it worthwhile.

Plus, cars are cheap – cheaper than they’ve ever been.

Great concept.

If these existing companies have no interest, perhaps some local entrepreneur could look into it. You could start with a couple of cars at or near each town centre.

Hiya troll-sniffer,

Thanks for the reply.

I’ll add my opinion;

>Canberrans in general are too well off and too bone lazy to participate

I believe this type of service does well in areas like San Francisco, which is certainly a ‘well off’ area — in fact you need to be a net-savvy person to use it.

>Canberra is too spread out for a reasonable coverage vs walking distance”

Canberra is spread out, but it’s not homogenized, it’s focussed on a ‘town centre’ type idea.

>No-one ever treats a car as well as you do and Friday night cars would become a real problem
>The cost of picking up cars left by irresponsible types would be prohibitive

All the following points you mention would be experienced by all existing companies, like the US-based zipcar.com which has been operating for about a decade. I think they’ve probably solved problems of damaged cars, booking systems etc. For example, I believe you can walk up to any available Zipcar and hire (and remotely unlock) it with an iPhone, for example.

troll-sniffer11:39 am 08 Jan 10

It makes perfect sense except for:

Canberrans in general are too well off and too bone lazy to participate
Canberra is too spread out for a reasonable coverage vs walking distance
No-one ever treats a car as well as you do and Friday night cars would become a real problem
The cost of picking up cars left by irresponsible types would be prohibitive

I’m sure I could think of some more negatives given time

Just for a start, think about if you lived in upper Hackett. It’s a thunderstormy day but not raining. The nearest depot is the Hackett Shops. The system says there’s a car there, so down you wander, but it’s not actually there. Hmmm, OK the next closest rank is Watson, so it’s another 20 minutes to walk there, and the car parked there has been damaged. Aha, you think, there are 3 cars at Dickson. So you call a cab to get to Dickson, pick up your car, drive to Bunnings, load up your hardware, and drive home. You unload and take the car to the Hackett Shops, start walking home and a thunderstorm catches you.

You’ve just wasted 4 hours or so, spent $20 on a cab, another $30 on the car hire, and got soaked into the bargain.

OK so that’s a worst case scenario but if it did happen you’d wonder at the value wouldn’t you?

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