Why shared mobility is the key to unlocking Scotland's sustainable travel future

Domestic transport is the largest source of harmful emissions in the UK.

If we fail to take decisive action, our chances of meeting the ambitious climate change targets set by both the Westminster and Holyrood governments will be next to impossible.  The daunting task of reducing the number of miles travelled by car by a fifth by 2030 requires us to look beyond traditional solutions and recognise the extraordinary potential of shared transport.

While public transport undoubtedly plays a crucial role in curbing emissions, decision-makers often overlook the transformative power of shared transport initiatives.  It is imperative that we acknowledge and harness the enormous benefits of schemes such as car clubs, bike sharing, e-scooters, and digital demand-responsive transport (DDRT).  These initiatives have proven their ability to significantly reduce congestion and carbon emissions.

In Scotland, we have witnessed a remarkable growth in car club membership, with a staggering 21 per cent increase in the past year alone.  This surge in participation has taken over 8,000 privately-owned vehicles off the roads.  What's more, emissions from car club vehicles in Scotland are an impressive 37 per cent lower than the average UK car.  Additionally, over a fifth of car club cars in Scotland are electric — a stark contrast to the mere 2 per cent of privately-owned vehicles across the rest of the UK.

Car clubs also offer their members convenient access to cleaner vehicles without the financial burden and hassles associated with car ownership.  Members enjoy freedom from expenses like taxes, MOT tests, servicing, repairs, and depreciation of value.  

Our research indicates that households can save more than £2,000 per year by transitioning from private vehicle ownership to car club membership.  These economic incentives, combined with the positive environmental impact, make shared transport an increasingly attractive alternative for individuals and families alike.

As we strive to make sustainable transport more accessible and appealing, it is crucial that we reimagine our services and seek integration with shared mobility.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought public transport ridership down by up to 50 per cent from pre-pandemic.

By revolutionising transportation and fostering collaboration, we can create seamless connections between public and shared transport, rebuilding sustainable networks that meet evolving community needs.  With smart technology, dial-a-bus schemes now dynamically respond to passenger demand, offering flexible routes and schedules.  By using user-friendly apps, passengers can request smaller vehicles to any destination, while operators optimise routes in real-time.

DDRT can support the Scottish Government's vision for 20-minute neighbourhoods, particularly in areas affected by service reductions.  It improves mobility for the elderly and disabled, reduces social isolation, and meets transportation needs within a 20-minute radius

Meanwhile, the growing popularity of bike share scheme across Scotland has reduced car mileage for each user by an estimated five miles every week.  The schemes are attracting more people back to cycling, delivering mental and physical health benefits, and helping the environment.  Electric bikes (e-bikes) are soaring in popularity because they reduce journey times and help riders to tackle hills – appealing to all generations.

It is disappointing that Edinburgh's popular bike hire scheme has not been reintroduced – and the capital risks being left behind among Europe's great cities unless this is urgently addressed.  At CoMoUK, we work to bring together politicians, transport officials and academics and operators to explore ways in which shared transport schemes can help governments meet climate change targets.  Amid the cost-of-living crisis and the climate emergency, this has never been more important.

We recently published a report highlighting the unique opportunity presented by the renationalisation of ScotRail by the Scottish Government.  Integrating car and bike share schemes with the rail network in Scotland is now within reach.  By implementing a smart ticketing overhaul, passengers can enjoy the convenience of paying a combined fare for multiple journeys, making public and shared transport more affordable than relying on private cars.

The establishment of mobility hubs, which bring together various modes of transport and community facilities, plays a crucial role in this transformation.  

It is imperative that Scotland seizes this moment to embrace shared transport initiatives and prioritize sustainability.

By doing so, we can reduce emissions, alleviate congestion, and create a supportive environment for seamless and sustainable travel experiences.  Recognising and capitalising on the potential of these initiatives is essential, and collaboration is key in building a greener future for Scotland's transportation system.

Let us take decisive action and invest in shared mobility to shape a more sustainable and accessible transport landscape for all.

CoMoUK is the national charity for the public benefit of shared transport such as car, bike and e scooter share schemes. More information: https://como.org.uk/