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wundayatta's avatar

Do car-sharing programs reduce harm to the environment?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) October 11th, 2010

Where I live there are these car-sharing programs. People reserve the cars for an hour or two at a time. They are parked in spaces all over the parts of the city where people rent them.

The theory is that you use public transportation most of the time, but for those times when you have to have a car, you use the car-share. In this way, you save money—you don’t have the expense of maintaining a car that sits on the street most of the time. You don’t have to buy the car, or keep it maintained or insure it.

I suppose if everyone—or at least a significant portion of the population—did this, there would be a lot fewer cars around, so the environmental cost of building all those cars people no longer needed would disappear.

Would that reduce pollution? Or is that pollution that would happen anyway? Does it matter who owns the car if the same number of miles get driven? Is that just a feel good kind of program, or does it make sense? How or why?

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8 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

I would bet that overall it reduces the number of miles driven. A lot of people use the logic “I absolutely must own a car in order to ________” (buy groceries, take the dog to the vet, take the kids on field trips…) so they buy a car. And once they have the car, they’re less likely to take public transportation unless it has some other incentive (cheaper, don’t have to worry about parking, etc.)

marinelife's avatar

“The average car owner spends just under $8,000 a year on car-related expenses.

PhillyCarShare is now Philadelphia’s premier non-profit car sharing service. PhillyCarShare points out many of the “green” and eco-friendly aspects to joining a car sharing service:

- 12,810 fewer cars – members say they would have owned 23,610 cars without PhillyCarShare. Now they own just 10,800.

- Every PhillyCarShare vehicle helps eliminate 81,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.

- 42% fewer miles driven – that translates to 26 million fewer miles since inception.

- 4 million miles driven in hybrids, which pollute 90% less than conventional vehicles.

- 1.6 million gallons of gas saved by driving hybrids and driving less.

- Former car owners say they’re choosing more earth-friendly modes: 40% walk more, 34% ride public transit more, 18% bike more, and 13% take taxis more. ”

Article Car Sharing and Its Benefits

xxii's avatar

I don’t have data on the energy impacts of cars or car-sharing programs, but intuitively, I would say yes. It certainly reduces the number of cars used in total, and any decrease in consumption results in a decrease in manufacturing, which reduces the resources used and environmental harm done through those processes.

I also think that when people have cars, they’re more likely to use them for trivial trips that they could have taken public transportation for – eg. walking a couple of blocks to pick up some milk, or going to the nearby pharmacy. With car-sharing programs, people are more likely to take public transportation for these smaller trips.

lillycoyote's avatar

I was going to say car pooling and ride sharing might do more to reduce pollution and emission but… @marinelife seems to have this one pretty much covered.

rooeytoo's avatar

All that is true, but no man is an island. If car manufacturing is cut in half because purchases are cut in half, what happens to those who were employed in any facet of car production. This is what drives me crazy when I contemplate what I should be doing, where do you stop???

wundayatta's avatar

@rooeytoo I was thinking of that, too, as I wrote the question. However, the economy changes all the time. Car companies have been going through booms and busts a lot lately. People will deal with it. It’s not really our responsibility to deal with the people who might suffer as a result of our efforts to live with a smaller carbon footprint. Just as it would not be our job to deal with the problem of hiring enough people if car companies were able to build $100mpg cars that were strong and safe and sexy.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. Manufacturing cars requires a lot of energy and resources.

rooeytoo's avatar

Decreasing manufacturing has its price and must be done with careful consideration. I have cited previously the situation in Australia where a cement plant was shut down because it could no longer keep up with the pollution control/carbon emission restrictions and be financially viable. So it closed and 200 lost their jobs. Now the cement is being manufactured in India where the controls are virtually nil and there is the added pollution of having it transported here.

So more stringent controls and schemes are a good idea but do not always produce the expected results.

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