The latest step being taken to reduce congestion and pollution on the city’s streets is beginning to take shape. It follows plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone and also to build a distribution centre to try to eliminate the need for HGVs to drive into the city.
The city council is to begin gathering thoughts from residents this summer to gauge interest in a ‘car club’ which would allow them to use hire cars as and when they are needed. It is estimated that each car in a ‘car club’ can replace up to 10 privately-owned vehicles – with a welcome knock-on effect of reducing the numbers of cars parked on residential streets.
If the scheme proves popular it is hoped to be launched early next year with a small fleet of hybrid or electric cars to begin with. They will be booked using an app.
It comes as the city has seen a reduction in car use amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Portsmouth City Council's transport boss, Councillor Lynne Stagg, said: ‘This could encourage people to get rid of their car - or their second or even third car. During lockdown some people are driving less because they're now working from home so it would make sense and save them money. It could also encourage them to walk and cycle for shorter journeys.
‘Obviously because of the pandemic a system would have to be sorted where the cars are cleaned after use.
‘At the moment we need to know how many people want to use them, there has to be enough interest for it to work.
‘I think it would start off with a small number of cars with the potential to grow depending on how many people join.’
A report going to a traffic and transportation meeting this week says: ‘With car ownership in Portsmouth showing a steady increase over recent years, there is increasing pressure on the road network.’
The idea was backed by Southsea resident and environmentalist Claire Seek who is one of the organisers of the Wimbledon Park Patch community group. The group has already started looking a small car club for the area.
She said: ‘It's about providing the option for everyone, whether it’s a family or workers or students who don't drive all the time but might need it to go to the shops or for a day trip.
‘It's an easy-to-use system. You can choose and pay for a time slot through an app and then either your phone or card unlocks the car.
‘If you're stuck in traffic and going to run over your time the car contacts the company to adapt the next bookings. You can book slots for as short as 15 minutes.’
Similar car clubs are currently running in other cities including Nottingham, Bristol and Brighton with some operating fleets of more than 120 cars in one area.
If enough residents are interested in the scheme it is planned the council will seek a vehicle hire company later this year.