With the number of automobiles in Prague (population 1.26 million) heading for the one million mark, the city’s authorities are set to consider a new scheme to support car sharing.
In 1990 there were 336,000 cars registered in Prague. Today that figure is almost three times higher. According to a report prepared for City Hall and quoted by the Czech News Agency, this means the Czech capital has overtaken even the most car intensive metropolises of Western Europe in terms of per capita number of automobiles.
With a view to cutting congestion and improving air quality – and as part of a broader project extending municipal paid parking zones – Prague’s authorities are now considering a scheme under which the city would provide financial support to car sharing initiatives. They say one shared car could replace eight individually owned vehicles.
The plan would target Prague residents that currently drive fewer than 10,000 kilometres a year, including students, people reluctant to take public transport at night, and families that from time to time need a second vehicle.
The city report says that experience from other countries suggests that in order for car sharing to succeed it needs the backing of regional or local agencies, particularly when it is first introduced. Deputy mayor Jiří Nouza told the news site Lidovky.cz that Prague is not out to do business in the car sharing field but rather to support that form of transport.
One key factor in ensuring such schemes take off is providing parking places in suitable locations easily accessible to residents. The introduction of cheaper parking fees – and even the creation of preferential lanes – for shared cars are also measures to be considered.
Another question is how many such cars the Czech capital would need for the system to have any affect. Germany’s Munich, with a population of 1.4 million, has 800 shared automobiles (which seems too low a number to genuinely make an impact).
As for how such a scheme would work in practical terms, other cities employ RFID cards, smartphone apps or text messaging. Such systems are already in place in Paris, Vienna and a number of places in Germany, with user numbers reported to be constantly on the rise.
If Prague’s councillors do decide in March to introduce the scheme, it will not be a complete novelty for the Czech Republic. Private groups have been running car sharing schemes for some years, though without making much of an impact. One, autonapul.org, was set up in Brno in 2002 but reported fewer than 20 members almost a decade later.
Even if the new scheme gets the green light, and companies can be encouraged to invest in this area, will people be interested? One environmental activist told the news site iDnes.cz a few years back that for some Czechs the very concept may carry a whiff of socialism. She said she was unsure if the “enchantment” of owning one’s own car had worn off in this country.