The Transport Ministry announced this week its plans to support carsharing in hopes of alleviating traffic-clogged roads and the quickly worsening parking situation in Czech cities. But it has promised no financial backing for carsharing schemes that allow car owners who do not use their vehicles daily to offer them for limited use, and a relatively small fee, to others.
Currently, there are two formalized carsharing services in the Czech Republic – the more traditional Autonapůl association based in Brno, and newly Sharujeme.cz, which offers a platform for more informal sharing between individuals in Prague. Both schemes have a few dozen users right now. I spoke to Sharujeme’s founder Petr Jansa and first asked him why his project is a better fit for Prague.
“Since there is no public support for carsharing [in Prague] a carsharing company would have to pay for parking spaces, which would make the price of carsharing less attractive for users. So, this is why I decided to start peer-to-peer carsharing where owners and users meet on an individual basis, and the [Sharujeme.cz] project simply provides the framework for this relationship.”
How would you compare your project to a more traditional scheme, such as Autonapůl in Brno?
“Well, Autonapůl is a typical, kind of a family. It is not a business, it is a non-profit association. But from the experience from Western Europe with such organizations is that they reach their limit with 10 to 15 cars and somewhere between 50 and 100 users and then they stop growing.
“And for a city like Prague you either need a big carsharing company which operates like a real business or a completely decentralize model similar to what we came up with, where the local communities build around individual vehicles.”
“Well, I don’t really convince people, I just offer them a service and wait for them to come. And after half a year, I have found that it is much easier for people to offer their car that they own for sharing than to be a user who is completely reliant on other people’s cars.
“Many of the users actually use the cars very rarely – maybe once a month when they go on a big shopping trip to IKEA or a trip outside of Prague. So these are not regular car users.”
What kind of support is necessary to develop the carsharing schemes either the peer-to-peer one like yours or others?
“Actually the current situation for the peer-to-peer model is quite good. At the same time, if we consider carsharing a public service, it would of course be a good idea to connect it with the public transportation infrastructure, either with railways – like they have in Switzerland – or with the city transport, which opens it up to much larger number of people. But it has to be a political decision, probably on the local level.”
The Transport Ministry has expressed its support for car sharing, but is not planning to give financial support to it yet. Will this be instrumental in any way?
“It will be useful in the future for a possible centralized large carsharing, once there is a legislative change concerning parking. For example, taxi drivers have reserved parking spaces, this should also exist for carsharing vehicles.”
How is Sharujeme.cz growing so far?
“We started the webpage in October of last year and we now have 50 users and 6 cars on offer, so the average is one new car per month and one or two new users per week, which is actually a perfect number to manage for a startup.”