Car share, public transportation and walking: much better ways to obtain from A to B.

Australia is a car-loving nation, understandably so given the size of our country and our often meagre public transport systems. Each day, more than 8 million people drive to work or study – about 78% of all Australians aged over 18 – and three-quarters of all vehicles carry just one person.

Worryingly, our cars collectively belch out damaging greenhouse gases at levels roughly the same per year to Queensland’s entire coal and gas-fired electricity supply. Transport is Australia’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions from transport increasing nearly 60% since 1990, more than any other sector, according to the Climate Council.

40% better fuel efficiency than petrol, which equals less CO2 emissions. But such engines perform best when towing and driving long-distances. For stop-start city driving, which tends to clog diesel exhaust filtration systems, a small and fuel-efficient petrol engine may prove better.

Or – if cash is less of an issue – purchase a hybrid car, which uses a combination of battery technology and a smaller petrol engine. Electric cars, too, are slowly entering the Australian market, but owners must be cautious to charge their vehicles from sustainable sources, rather than coal-fired power sources.

To help consumers choose more efficient vehicles, the Australian government-backed Green Vehicle Guide rates cars dating back to 2004 using a colour-coded CO2 emissions meter.

Consider joining a car-sharing scheme

Already embraced in some European cities, car sharing remains something of a fledgling concept in Australia; most schemes are as yet only available in major capital cities. Yet the concept is promising for short distance city travel: avoid the cost and emissions of owning your own car and instead book from a share fleet only when needed, helping reduce road and carpark congestion – and proving cheaper than taxis and Uber.

The City of Sydney has been most proactive in promoting such systems, with about 20% of Sydneysiders now belonging to car-share schemes. The Sydney share fleet alone has taken about 10,000 cars off the road, according to a 2016 report.

Consumers can essentially choose from three systems. Companies such as GoGet, Flexicar, GreenShareCar and Student Car Share allow members to book cars from a fleet, usually by the hour or day. Peer-to-peer systems, such as Car Next Door and DriveMyCar operate more like Airbnb – you’re basically renting out your neighbour’s car. Community car-pooling schemes, while still few and far between, are another option.

“Car share users get direct personal benefits because they save on transport costs,” says Car Next Door co-founder Will Davies. “They also use public transport and walk and bike more often, which brings more physical activity into their day-to-day lives.” Car Next Door offsets its carbon emissions through non-profit Greenfleet; the scheme’s 60,000 members have helped plant 12,500 trees since 2013.

16% of Australians aged over 18 use public transport – many who don’t often say they find services inconvenient and unreliable, or they simply don’t have access to a service at all. While the system can be frustrating in Australia, choosing public transport where possible is doubly beneficial: buses and trains have a far lower environmental impact, and services often improve as patronage increases. Rail transport, especially, is one of the world’s most energy efficient modes of getting around, producing up to five times less greenhouse gases per passenger kilometre than cars.

“Many public transport systems around the world, and some in Australia, are switching to 100% renewable energy – cutting pollution even further,” says Petra Stock, Climate Council’s energy and climate systems analyst.

A third of Brisbane’s bus fleet runs on compressed natural gas, while Canberra last August began trialling two new electric buses and one hybrid, and may eventually replace the entire fleet. In Adelaide, the council’s electric solar bus Tindo is the world’s first to be recharged using 100% solar energy.

Choose the best option: cycling and walking

It’s a no-brainer: burning our personal energy rather than fossil fuels is the most sustainable way to get around – and good for our health and hip pockets, too. But few Australians regularly choose active travel, with just one in 26 people usually walking or cycling to work or study.

Again, the sheer size of our country is partly to blame. But for city dwellers and those who live close to work, active transport is attractive when the maths is considered. “Owning and operating a car costs about $225 per week, not including parking,” the Bicycle Queensland chief executive, Anne Savage, says. “Riding 10km to and from work regularly will save the average household at least $1,700 per year in transport costs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 tonnes annually.” Plus riding to work can dramatically lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, Savage says.

These days, one doesn’t even need to own a bike. Sharing schemes such as Reddy Go, oBike, ofo and all operate via mobile phone apps, while many major cities also offer local sharing systems. And if puffing up hills puts you off, consider electric bikes (ideally if you have solar power at home for recharging).

Going carless won’t always be possible, but considering more sustainable modes of transport can make a big difference.

  • Additional research and reporting by Nicole Lutze
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Source

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/18/car-share-public-transport-and-walking-better-ways-to-get-from-a-to-b