In a recent report carried out by the motor data company Inrix displays that Irish commuters spent 246 hours stuck in traffic in 2018. This was the third worst in the world behind only Rome (254 hours) and Bogota (272 hours). Dublin was also ranked as having the slowest city centre in Europe. Traffic congestion has a negative impact on the economy, in China it’s estimated cost to the economy is between 5 – 8% of their GDP.
Last year, the Dublin Chamber outlined how 73% of its members thought that traffic problems had an increasingly negative impact on their business. 68% believed that the Government had implemented inadequate infrastructure measures to counteract this widespread problem. With 66% of Irish workers commuting in cars, what can company’s themselves do to remedy a solution?
In UCD, 18% of staff and students commute to college as drivers in a car, yet only 2% commute as passengers in a car. In a college where we have around 3,400 car parking spaces for circa 37,500 staff and students. It doesn’t take a Maths degree to figure out why we have such a bad parking problem on campus. UCD have attempted to solve this problem by applying to the Dún Laoighre and Rathdown County Council to increase the number of parking spaces available on campus. However, this application was denied on the grounds that it would increase the already heavy traffic congestion in the surrounding area. UCD need to make better use of the parking spaces already available on campus, an inhouse carpooling culture provides an intriguing solution. Some students feel so aggrieved by the parking situation on campus that a ‘ucdparkingproblems’ page has been created on Instagram.
Limitations to the amount of parking spaces available affect corporations and colleges alike. This is a widespread problem, particularly in Dublin due to regulatory reasons or simply to a lack of space for adequate parking spaces. The cost of providing parking has become extremely expensive for organisations. A 32-space car park recently sold for €2 million located between Baggot Street and Fitzwilliam Square. According to the Irish Times, the director general of the Construction Industry Federation said that underground car-parking spaces can cost between €50,000 and €100,000 to build.
Transport for Ireland (TFI) have a page on their website dedicated to outlining how to create a carpooling platform within a business. They highlight that carsharing can “decrease congestion and cut your journey time… and reduce pollution and CO2 emissions”. With an increasing amount, of organisations attempting to decrease their carbon footprint and improve their ‘green’ image, carpooling initiatives could assist them with such goals.
Improving employee health and wellness is another growing trend across the corporate landscape. Driving in traffic congestion leads to greater emotional health effects such as stress. Stress is well documented as having adverse effects on productivity and wellness. Carpooling can be far less stressful than travelling alone.
A Harvard Business Review last year outlined that loneliness at work is a growing health epidemic that can translate to a reduced life span to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness at work can trigger emotional withdrawal, decrease worker output and make employees more likely to leave. One way to get around this issue, to connect people who may not otherwise have any social contact i.e. work in different departments, is to encourage a culture of corporate carpooling. Carpooling to college has led to the creation and reinforcing of several great friendships for myself that may not have come about, or it wasn’t for the daily carpooling commute.
Carpooling offers a faster, alternative commute for some employees. Personally, it would take me over an hour to commute to UCD on public transport, when carpooling it takes half that time. Carpooling can also save money on your commute. Money can be saved on fuel and toll fees. Rotating who drives and the car used can help save on the cost of vehicle repairs and maintenance.
Time spent commuting usually takes away from people’s exercise or sleep time. Sleep deprivation can adversely affect performance, attention and long-term memory.
During an interview with the TFI, they described that the greatest obstacle to carpooling in Ireland is that it is not part of the culture in Ireland yet. It is much easier and manageable to encourage and foster a carpooling culture within an organisation than it is to roll it out to society. Creating pockets of corporate carpooling in organisations will go a long way into ensuring that carpooling is absorbed into wider society over time.
Carpooling as an industry has grown rapidly all over the world but it yet to properly take off in Ireland. One reason for this is that taxi regulation which is governed by the National Transport Agency (NTA) has stopped heavyweights like Uber from entering the carpooling market in Ireland. However, smaller companies are starting to tailor their products to appease the NTA and the Irish market. In fact, a start-up within UCD called ‘Go Tappa’ has found away to circumnavigate that regulation and has the go-ahead from Transport for Ireland to pursue a corporate carpooling initiative. They seem to place huge emphasis on the creation of a corporate carpooling culture within organisations. Whilst voluntary student-run initiatives like the UCD Carpooling Facebook page have failed to effectively solve the problem of parking, perhaps it is time for UCD to employee a specialist firm to bring about a culture of carpooling on campus.
By Peter Hoy – Politics Co-Editor