What are car clubs?
- A car club is a service that hosts a community of accessible cars that can be driven on a pay-as-you-drive basis. The cars, owned and maintained by the operator, are usually located in urban areas on street in dedicated car club bays. Those who are subscribed to the service can then book one of these cars and use it as their own for a period of time before returning it.
- Some of the car clubs work off a paid subscription service, while others use a pay-as-you-drive model.
- The cars can be used from as little as thirty minutes up to a full weekend and are usually accessed online or via smartphone.
- Drivers of car club vehicles have access to dedicated parking spaces reserved for car club users plus some operators also supply their cars with permits to allow the driver to park in restricted areas for free.
The benefits of car clubs
Car clubs bring benefits to many including residents, developers and local authorities;
Often people living in urban areas don’t want the hassle of owning a car, can’t afford the costs or simply don’t have the space. Subscribing to a car club gives residents the necessary access to a vehicle without the issues associated with vehicle ownership.
Carplus (an environmental transport NGO that promotes sustainable transport) estimates that, in favour of using a car club, 5.4 people per car club car give up their personal vehicle. This means that for each new car club car, 4 parking spaces are no longer required.
In London, 15% of all car club members stated that they had sold or disposed of a car in the last 12 months.
- Carplus states that car club members are more likely to take sustainable means of travel, minimising their effect on the environment.
- As fewer car spaces are required, a development with planned car club incorporation can unlock planning potential when planning permission otherwise may not have been granted. Moreover, a development which includes a car club space can be seen to have a wider benefit to the local area.
- The land saved by reducing parking provision can be used to provide other spaces, such as more residential or commercial units, or green areas which can raise the value of the development especially as residents see view the car club as an extra service.
- Car clubs contribute to the following policy objectives:
- reduced congestion/parking;
- reduced local pollution;
- increased viability of low-car housing; and
- improved neighbourhoods.
Popular car club operators
Below is a list of popular car club operators;
Car club popularity
- London is the largest market in Europe for car clubs and the second largest globally.
- There are around 2,500 car club cars in London alone and in 2016 there were 186,000 car club members.
- Car clubs are no longer seen as an ‘alternative’ option in policy terms, but rather an attractive part of a modern mobility mix alongside public transport, taxis, walking & cycling.
- Electric vehicles have been getting a major rollout as nearly all operators are choosing these over combustion cars.
Car clubs in policy
Car clubs are not directly mentioned in most policy documents. However, sustainable transport methods are commonly mentioned;
- The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, 2012) repeatedly states how both new developments and existing retro-fit developments should take on all viable opportunities for sustainable travel in order to reduce the need for major transport infrastructure, provide safe and suitable access to the site and improve the transport network in a way that cost-effectively limits the significant impacts of development.
- The Planning Practice Guidance on Sustainable Transport states that the transport system needs to be balanced in favour of sustainable transport modes.
- The NPPF states that Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) should be used where they can help applicants make successful applications or aid infrastructure delivery. An SPD, either specifically for car clubs or for a broader range of travel options, can be used to provide a very clear framework for the developers to understand the required commitment of them in relation to the development of the car club.
- Parking policy (Local Plan/Local Development Framework policy) plays an important role, especially in areas where controlled parking zones are used as the availability of on street parking is restricted. The experience gained by service providers suggests that a ratio of 0.8 car parking spaces per residential unit or less creates the conditions in which car club and parking levels are mutually complementary.
- The London Plan (2016) sets out the Mayor of London’s vision, strategy, objectives and policies with regard to planning. This plan continues to highlight the requirement to facilitate the use of car clubs in and around London in order to encourage sustainable methods of transportation.
On-street parking bays
Car clubs require a designated and signed parking bay that is in close proximity to where members live or work. On-street parking bays usually offer the most appropriate locations for car club bays.
On-street parking bays have a number of benefits for car clubs:
- Credibility – Highly visible on-street bays with official DfT signage demonstrates the experienced endorsement which helps underline the credibility of the car club;
- Community Ownership – By utilising a public space the car club gives a perception of local neighbourhood ownership;
- Visibility of Service – Having a bay exposed on the public highway along with signage facing the pedestrian footway helps to increase the outreach of car club advertising. The location of the bay will subsequently be noted and more people will likely sign up;
- Accessibility – An on-street parking space is the best option in terms of accessibility as private bays are often hidden off the public highway. A location next to a cycle storage facility further promotes using both types of sustainable travel methods together;
- Personal Safety & Car Security – Public highways are usually well lit and exposed to the public which helps to reduce the potential risk during dark hours for both the users and the cars;
- Costs – Using on-street bays for car clubs is usually more cost effective than opting for a private space.
The capital cost of providing car club availability varies depending on the operator, their car availability and the details behind the S106 agreement with the Local Planning Authority.
Guideline costs however are as follows:
- The capital cost of an average car club vehicle is £15,000;
- The purchase / installation of in-car telematics costs £2,000;
- The cost of road markings and signage is £1,500 per space;
- The contribution paid to the car club to cover the operational costs is £2,530 for the first year and then 25% less each subsequent year as the scheme becomes more financially viable.
The subtotal is approximately £24,500 for 3 years of operation.
The process of obtaining on-street parking bays
There are a number of different elements that need to be addressed in the process of obtaining on-street parking bays;
- A Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) or Traffic Management Order (TMO) (the same as a TRO but within London) is a necessary step. They are legal documents that regulate the use of the UK’s public highway separate to the planning process. Any proposed TRO/TMO will be subject to a consultation period during which the public are able to raise possible concerns.
- If there is an existing Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) or one planned, it should be analysed and evaluated in order to take hold of a good opportunity for incorporating car club parking. A CPZ is a great place for a car club bay as it helps to reduce car ownership and thus can alleviate parking pressures.
- Funding has to be considered and accounted for. There are two major costs associated with the car club bay itself. The physical changes to the parking space; signage, line painting and possible resurfacing, as well as the costs of public consultation. There are multiple ways funding can be sourced;
- Section 106 – The most common way in which car club bays can be funded through the use of a Section 106 agreement with developers. As part of the planning consent a developer may be required to meet the cost of providing the bays, which would then be available to the local authority to allocate according to its existing policy. A developer may additionally be required to provide parking bays within its building parking provision, and contribute to the costs of operating those cars for a period of time.
- Local Authority – The money can be raised through the Council’s capital funding. In London, TfL may have available funds for car club development.
- Car Club Operator – Although very uncommon, it is possible to request the car club operator to fund the entire bay conversion. This may only the case in areas of very high car club demand as in areas of regular demand it can be a significant cost for the operator.
- Leasing of Bays – It is possible for the local authority to meet the full cost of providing the bays to then make it available for operators to lease. This is usually only found in areas where multiple car clubs operate as the local authority can limit an operators’ lease time, making it available to others.
Section 106 agreements
Car clubs associated with new developments are generally secured through a Section 106 agreement which is an agreement between the developer and a LPA detailing financial measures that the developer agrees to undertake to often reduce the development’s impact on the surrounding area. The agreement aims to obtain concessions and contributions from the developer in return for planning consent.
Typically, Section 106 agreements relating to car clubs involve one or more of the following;
- A set amount per unit to support the costs of the car club operation.
- A set amount for vehicle bays/signage.
- Funds to offer incentives to promote the car club such as free membership for an initial period.
As part of the ongoing travel plan monitoring work multimodal surveys were also completed the following morning which confirmed that residents are continuing to follow the positive trends previously observed of walking, cycling and car sharing. RGP is proud to see its Travel Plan fully implemented and well on its way to achieving its active travel goals.