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How the 1 person, 1 car approach is hurting the planet

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Attitudes are shifting towards car ownership, but more needs to be done if we want to promote sustainable solutions country-wide.

As a nation we have a long documented connection to our cars. It can be emotional, habitual or more often than not an over-reliance driven by the vast geography of our cities.

In fact, Australia is among the top 5 countries with the highest rates of private car ownership per capita. 50% of households in Australia don't just have 1 car, they have 2 or more.

But our current 1 person, 1 car approach simply isn't sustainable.

Our cities are becoming less liveable, our emissions are being driven up, it's eating away at public space and it's leading to more expensive transport.

Put simply, our love of cars is creating cities where parking is prioritised over people, and it's driving up congestion.

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Attitudes towards car ownership are beginning to shift already

While we may think we need our cars, owning a car is not always a rational purchase and it often doesn't make financial sense.

But in order to change this behaviour, Australians must be made more aware of the choices available to them and be provided with reliable, affordable and convenient alternatives.

Over the last 10 years we've seen a shift in attitudes towards car ownership.

People are choosing to combine rideshare with carshare, ebikes, scooters, walking and public transport to reduce their reliance on private cars – or the need for a household to own multiple cars.

More recently, the pandemic has reinforced and reshaped the character and routines of daily life across the globe and has caused individuals to rethink their travel habits.

High upfront costs of car ownership

For many decades, cars were considered a luxury – well into the 20th century – and people still underestimate the full personal costs of ownership today.

Approximately $180 billion is spent annually on car ownership in Australia, compared to $228 billion on housing and $112 billion on food.

When you take into account the upfront cost of purchasing a vehicle, as well as the various high fixed costs like insurance and registration, plus any damage – these all add up.

If your car spends a lot of its life on the kerbside, increasing the cost per kilometre with depreciating vehicle values, ownership makes even less financial sense.

There is now a variety of transport options that offer sustainable solutions to fit any budget, such as car sharing or pooling with others.

In fact, in the last month, we've seen a 51% increase in city dwellers sharing commute trips via Uber Pool, which matches riders with others heading in the same direction, helping them save money and emissions.

The sustainable solution

We make personal choices on sustainability every day.

Some of the most common practices according to Finder's Green Consumer Report are to use less plastic, have more energy-efficient appliances at home or to install energy-efficient lighting.

However, living car-free is the number 1 way to reduce carbon emissions, according to a study by Environmental Research, yet surprisingly only 15% of people saw it as an action that would have any impact.

Positively, the next generation are more conscious of their growing carbon footprint, leading millions of people to consider a greater transport mobility mix. This is in addition to advocating for access to parklands and community areas.

At a broader level, there are positive environmental signals across the country with Australians unanimously voting for climate change action at the recent federal election.

It is clear that the moment to act is now if we are to make the future of transport more efficient, accessible and economic.

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The way forward

Our over-reliance on cars is a critical problem – we need to tackle the 1 person, 1 car mentality – and we firmly believe the future of transport has to be shared and electric.

It's why Uber acquired Australian business Car Next Door, a car sharing solution that offers an affordable, convenient alternative to private car ownership. It is suitable for both mid-range and longer-distance trips and can be set up in just about any location where someone wants to loan out their vehicle.

While living car-free is the top way to help to reduce carbon emissions, how our vehicles are powered is also critical, as is Australia catching up with the rest of the world on the uptake of electric vehicles.

The decisions we make today and the policies we advocate for, will lay the foundation for a more sustainable transport future.

Dom Taylor is the regional general manager for Uber's ridesharing business across Australia and New Zealand. He joined Uber in 2014, managing driver growth in Sydney before embarking on an expansive range of roles across the region.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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