GoCar now operates in Cork and Dublin, but how does it work?

We have a look at a new kind of public transport

GoCar now operates in Cork and Dublin, but how does it work?

Colm Brady from GoCar

This week I decided to try something new, something different. I decided to do the unthinkable and test drive public transport. No, I didn’t take my seat on the 16 from Drumcondra to George’s Street in Dublin 2. I didn’t hop in a Taxi to take me from my front door to the office. I wasn’t sampling Dublin Bikes. What I did do was sample GoCar. You’ve heard of it haven’t you? I see it on Twitter and Facebook often - people seem to enjoy taking selfies beside the cars. I think people see them as being kind of quirky. I mean the logo looks nice sitting on the Ford Fiestas or the Hyundai i10s they use.

GoCar was launched in Cork City in September 2008. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength. By September 2010 the company launched their first Dublin GoBase, just off Camden Street. This week I met with the GoCar team and asked them to let me sample their system and how it works.

I have to say that I am a fan of the concept. GoCar wouldn’t be too dissimilar to Dublin Bikes. To people who live in and around a city, this could be an alternative to driving with their own car. It works best for people who have an adequate public transport system near their homes and offices. My view of the GoCar system is that a person would use public transport to get in and out of work, and then use a GoCar for smaller return trips they may need to make from the city (list of bases inside and outside of Dublin and Cork cities can be found here). It’s also handy for people who enjoy day-tripping without the expense of owning a car. Hey, some people use it just to do the weekly shop.

The system is run like a club. People are asked to respect the next user, which is something I really like. For example, when you book a GoCar you’re asked to state how long you need it for, so as to allow for other bookings. If you feel you’re not going to make it back within the allotted time, you’re asked to contact base to see if you can extend your time period. If the car is free for the next hour they say go ahead. If not they ask you to return, or they try and arrange an alternative for the next customer. I like the way that it’s run on a kind of respect system.

Who’s it for?
It’s hard to knock an idea like this, but at the same time it’s not suited to everybody. In my view it’s not for people whose area isn’t well serviced in terms of public transport. It’s not for people who don’t live or work near a GoBase either.

It is however suited to people who bring their cars unnecessarily into town. With the GoCar system you get the use of a car whenever you need it. When you consider parking charges and petrol costs, it could work out cheaper if it’s used together with public transport systems.

Upside and downside:
The only real downsides I can see about GoCar is that it’s not enough like Dublin Bikes, in that you must drop off the car in the same place that you pick it up. It would also be nice to see more bases in areas surrounding cities to make it even more accessible, although I’m pretty positive that GoCar are planning to expand.

The upside to GoCar is that it’s handy and pretty inexpensive if you’re using it correctly. This is a serious solution to shorter journeys. Some of the other benefits of using this system are; that you can park it in any public parking space without having to pay, and you don’t need to worry about paying for petrol - if you notice the tank is below one quarter full you’re asked to respect the next user and use the fuel card in the vehicle to refill the car.

How it works:
Register your details on GoCar.ie and have two photos ready of either side of your driver’s licence. The current sign-up charge is €49.99, with this you get €15 your credit back for your first uses of the system (full breakdown of charges below).

After registration you are sent your unique GoCard (if you apply before 3pm on a given day you should receive your card in the next post).

When you want to book a car you log onto the site and pick the time and station you want to pick up the car from.

After getting to the vehicle you take your card and sweep it over a reader which is visible from the windscreen. By swiping this card the car will open. Once you sit inside the car will tell you what to do. Enter your unique PIN into a handheld device which has the key locked to it. If your PIN is correct the key is released. This is a normal car key and you stick it in the ignition and drive away.

When you are finished your journey you park the car in the area that you picked it up and stick the key back into the handheld device. The car tells you what your mileage and time was and that’s it.

Some facts:
At the moment there are 3,500 people signed up to GoCar between Cork and Dublin. 28% of their members own a car, and 6% of these intend on selling them. 54% of members had previously owned a car, and GoCar says that they are aiming to become an alternative for car ownership. Another interesting statistic is that 31% of their members say they use the vehicles for both business and pleasure.

GoCar are working with Dublin City Council and Irish Rail to integrate the service with trains coming to each city. Their fleet consists of 80 cars at the moment.

What does it cost?
Already mentioned is the sign-up fee of €49.99 (€15 credit gets added to your account). Each month there is a membership fee of €5. Apart from that, each journey is charged by the hour which starts from €4.99. For the first 40km the cost per km is 45cent and for every kilometre after that it will cost you 35c.

There are three types of cars available – GoCity (small city cars – Hyundai i10 and Ford Fiesta), GoTripper (Hyundai i30 and Ford Focus – larger car for longer trips) and GoVan (Ford Connect Van). The cost of use per day is capped at €40 for the GoCity and €50 for the GoTripper and GoVan. The capped rate is just for use of the vehicles, a per/km charge still applies.