Posted by: wesleyjohnston | August 20, 2012

Some Musings on Car Sharing

I live in Belfast, and currently commute to Newtownards by car, a fairly easy journey that takes around 25 minutes (20 in the summer). My wife has just started a new job, which happens to also be in Newtownards. As I also work in Newtownards, this gave us the perfect opportunity to try car sharing.

The operation took careful planning. As we work at opposite ends of Newtownards we had to decide whether:

  1. She would drop me off, and then double back to go to her work. This would require more time, so we’d need to get up twenty minutes earlier than if we were driving separately.
  2. She would go straight to her work, dropping me off on her way. I would then do a ten minute walk to my work. We’d only need to get up ten minutes earlier than if we were driving separately.

We opted for the latter this morning. It was very pleasant sharing the car, albeit a new experience for us both having company. The journey is about 7 miles each way, so since my car costs about 12p per mile for fuel, I reckon we saved £1.68 today. I have to confess to be being somewhat disappointed that it’s so low, but over a week this would add up. So I noted that longer shared journeys would bring greater benefits, but here is a tangible benefit.

My wife dropped me off at the Ards Shopping Centre and I set off to walk to work. The first thing I noticed is just how heavy my work bag is, and how difficult it is to walk with it hanging from one arm. If I was doing this routinely, I might need to invest in a backpack. As it was hot and sunny, the walk was a pleasant one, but I have to admit that when I arrived at work (on time!) ten minutes later I was sweating like a pig. So another thing to note is that I would probably need to do more laundry if I was doing this regularly. I’m also not sure how appealing this would be in driving rain. But it was probably good for me.

At lunch time I had to go to the bank, something I do several times a week. Until this moment, I had not linked “not having a car” to not being able to go to the bank. It’s about a 15 minute walk into town, and the bus leaves you off at the other end of the town centre, and is too dear anyway. So I walked into town. It was cloudy when I set off, so I brought a coat. Of course, the sun then came out, so I ended up sweating like a pig once again. Got to the bank, and walked back again.

I got plenty of good cardio exercise, although it did take 30 minutes all told. By contrast, the same errand in the car takes about 15 minutes, plus 60p for the short term parking. So adding that to the petrol, the cost saving in the day rises to £2.28, which is starting to get more respectable. Whether you think 50 minutes of walking to save £2.28 is actually worth it probably depends on:

  1. How fit you are.
  2. How fit you would like to be.
  3. Whether you think the trade off is worth it.
  4. How motivated you are by environmental considerations.

For me, this is worth it in the summer time. I’ll have to get back to you about whether it’s worth it in the depths of winter.

Going home was more or less the same process. I was to walk back to the same spot and be picked up. In the end, a colleague was driving past the same spot, and dropped me off, saving me the ten minute walk, but my wife was there as planned, and we went home together. If anyone noticed the traffic on the Newtownards Road ever so slightly lighter than usual, you can thank us!

So the things that were different for me from Not Car Sharing were:

  1. Ten minutes less in bed.
  2. Forty minutes more walking.
  3. £2.28 saved.
  4. Requirement for a clean shirt.

One final observation is to note that while car sharing does take one car off the road en-route, it can actually increase the traffic levels in the destination town if you end up using the same vehicle to go to two different destinations which are in opposite directions, and hence have to double-back, rather than two cars going directly to their destination.

I will let you know in a later blog entry how the car sharing progresses.


  1. Add purchase of back pack, unless you have one of course. A skilful dissection of the issues!

  2. Seems a shame though that you still commute to Ards by car; the bus service between the two towns is one of the best in the country. My work sponsors the Translink TaxSmart scheme so that I pay pre-tax, effectively it costs me about £2 per day.

    One does not have to alight from the bus on the western side of town; depending on the bus service you can hop-off on the east side ( e.g. Donaghadee or Portaferry roads ).

    But congratulations anyhow on reducing car traffic anyhow 🙂

    • That works if you live near the bus route or city centre, but I live further south. So using the bus requires me to get to the Newtownards Road or city centre, which is a 20-30 minute walk/bus ride before you even get the blue bus. So you’d be leaving the house at 8am or before. With it being an easy 25 minute drive and only £1.70 of petrol, the car is clearly the logical mode of transport for me.

  3. Myself and the other half moved to the sticks, and started car sharing to our jobs in Belfast.

    (Public transport is not really suitable, as we work on opposite edges of the city, which would require a bus into town, waiting about and another bus/train to our destination, same again at home time).

    It has saved me a bit of fuel against when I used to live in the suburbs and we commuted individually, especially as my car is not particularly fuel efficient.

    As we work on opposite ends of the city, it involves one driving, dropping the other off, then doubling back and going to work in the other end of town. Same again at hometime.

    Seems to take longer as the other person has to work the time taken driving to and from their place of work to the driver’s place of work, or if driving, seems to effectively double the commuting time (but still, as I mentioned, under public transport time).

    No car and working a few miles from the city centre means that if you don’t have a packed lunch, lunches are based on the local canteen. No bank or post office runs.

    • I’ve found the same. You are forced to shop within walking distance of work. This is good for local shops, I guess, but does limit choice.

  4. […] experimented last week with car sharing, today I decided to experiment with commuting to work by bicycle. This is partly because, as […]

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