Car pooling is a potentially useful way of reducing car use and improving accessibility, particularly to areas that are not well served by public transport. Many private cars, particularly those used for journeys to work, have only one occupant – the driver – and three empty seats. Car pooling, in which people share trips, improves the efficiency of car use and the use of the road network more generally, as well as decreasing the number of car journeys and the associated adverse environment impacts.
The Romanian city of Craiova was one of the main cities involved in the CHUMS project, which was supported by the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy for Europe Programme. The aim of CHUMS, which stood for ‘Changing Habitats for Urban Mobility Solutions’, was to promote car pooling through behavioural change campaigns and personalised travel plans. The focus of the work in Craiova was on an industrial district that was a centre of employment, but which was not well served by public transport and also suffered from limited parking. Many employees were left with little option than to go to and from work using taxis.
Car pooling in the industrial area was facilitated by the provision of designated parking spaces for car pool users, with access restricted by barriers to cars registered on a car pooling database. A software programme was developed that allowed potential users to identify fellow employees that lived close to them, making it more realistic to share journeys. The development of personalised travel plans was accompanied by awareness raising activities to engage with employees, including flyers, posters and local radio and TV slots, in addition to social media activities. In the second year of the project, the programme was extended to the students and staff of the University of Craiova.
As a result of the project, over 4,000 car poolers were enlisted, split equally between the industrial area and the university, while over 1,500 carpooling groups were formed. As a result of the programme, around 16,000 fewer kilometres are being driven every day to and from the areas concerned. The project highlighted that the commitment of the local administration was crucial, while it was also important to directly engage with, and gain the support of, senior people within the organisations concerned.