Make the car a last resort: transit planner

Tim Papandreou of San Francisco’s Sustainable Streets spoke at CarShare HFX event

Tim Papandreou presented his “multi-modal” approach to sustainable tranportation at Dalhousie University. Photo: Alison Chiang

An influential San Francisco transportation planner says cities around the world need to design streets for people in such a way that they don’t need a car.

“Students’ role is to remind old folks to design streets for people to bicycle, transit, walk safely and live a life where they don’t have a car,” says Tim Papandreou, the city’s deputy director of Sustainable Streets.  He wants people to think about this concept of using a car but not owning one.

Papandreou spoke at an event at Dalhousie University commemorating CarShare HFX’s 4th anniversary.

For the last four years, there has been a co-ordinated approach to the transportation system in San Francisco, says Papandreou. This system of planning manages the bus and parking lot programs, as well as overseeing pedestrian movement. He says cities should be able to inform and provide its citizens with a co-ordinated mobility system.

Called the “multi-modal” approach, this city plan aims to work with both public and private sectors in creating the necessary infrastructure so a personal car becomes a last resort.

Pam Cooley, president of CarShare HFX, met Papandreou at an international car sharing conference in Montreal a few years ago. She was so impressed with him that she thought it would be fitting for him to speak about solutions for a sustainable Halifax transit system.

Cooley says sustainable transportation is a goal for everyone: both in the public and private sectors.

“It’s not rocket science. Every city is doing something where a car is the last resort,” she says.

Cooley says students are part of the process too because the goal of the “multi-modal” approach is about accessibility and sharing. A car is one thing we can share.

Papandreou says cars will become more and more expensive. Oil and insurance premiums will all continue to rise.

“The smarter way moving forward is to not have the responsibility,” he says.

Peter Zimmer, general manager of CarShare HFX, says the car share system is ideal for people who want a vehicle for a short period of time: going to a movie, dropping and picking up a friend from the airport, or dropping the kids at soccer practice. It’s membership-based and there a variety of plans available.

The car share idea started in Europe about 20 years ago and a Quebec company, Communauto, brought the system to Canada. Communauto has helped to get CarShare HFX started. CarShare HFX currently has 21 cars and the company would like to double that number every year, says Cooley.

Zimmer estimates 70 to 80 members of the Dalhousie community use the CarShare HFX service.

He says it’s all about downsizing.

“Our goal is to reduce the number of personal cars in Halifax by 2000,” says Zimmer.

Papandreou is working with car share companies around the world to help people move around the city more efficiently. San Francisco’s co-ordinated transit system was one of the first in United States. He says sharing ideas is hugely important.

As young people move into the cities and keep up a frugal lifestyle, Papandreou says they can help advance this sustainability approach.

“Students are the future advocates and future designers to keep this system up and running,” he says.