A self-styled ride share solution for a rural island community
Mull and Iona Lift-share is a self-run Facebook group whose membership represents more than 15% of the island’s population.
Mull and Iona Lift-share was set up in July 2015 to encourage residents of the island to share car journeys, as an outcome of the Mull and Iona Sustainable Transport (MIST) project which explored a number of opportunities for promoting sustainable transport on the island.
Having examined the appropriateness of existing commercial ride share solutions, it was felt that these were either too impersonal or too expensive to deploy and so it was decided to develop the platform themselves using Facebook. Another community group had reported great success at using Facebook and it was known that the platform was well-used by islanders.
“Teamup” – a free to use online group calendar is used for offering, requesting and matching lifts, accessible via a direct link from the Facebook group. The group is ‘closed’ meaning it is not visible to the public and requires approval to join. Members have to be residents of Mull and Iona and over 18 to qualify. A code of conduct was developed and distributed to all members.
Once the initial system had been tested with a few invited members, the group was advertised through local media and other Facebook groups, as well as at events and via word of mouth.
Car statics were produced with a Lift-Share logo and slogan to be presented on members vehicles.
Investigations were made with the Council about the potential to provide dedicated parking bays for the lift-share vehicles, but it was declined.
The membership grew to 455 over its first 7 months of operation. By the latter half of this period an average of 50 lifts were being offered or requested each month. During this time, a total of 37,640 km were offered, with 14,622 km taken.
The MIST project calculated that this generated a carbon saving of 3,404kg over the first 7 months of operation.
Membership of the group is skewed towards women (69%). Whilst usage is strongest amongst the 25-34 age range, it has good levels of usage amongst all age groups.
The MIST project finished in March 2016 and since then a Mull and Iona Community Trust employee has taken on the role of group administration, in terms of accepting new members and checking content of the site, although no active promotion activities continue. Nonetheless, membership has continued to grow to 700 in March 2019, though the average number of requests has dropped.
Over half of the group members are from Tobermory, the main settlement on the island. There are a significant number of members off the island, primarily in Oban, Glasgow and Edinburgh. This perhaps implies that some members are islanders who have moved to the mainland but continue to use the service when they return home – some of the journey requests are trips from the late ferry arriving at Craignure. People also use the service to request mainland trips, such as from the ferry towards Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Anecdotally, it is thought that a part of the reason for postings reducing is because people have now established links between each other and offer lifts without posting them on the Facebook group.
Developing their own ride share solution worked well on the island, as it was more personal than using an ‘external’ system. The choice of the Facebook platform seems appropriate for a strong island community and many islanders are regular users of the platform.
During the original MIST project, when the scheme was set up, it was found that some members were reluctant to display the Lift-share logo as they didn’t want their cars to be identified as offering lifts at all times.
The project also sought Council approval for providing dedicated Lift-share bays (to help raise awareness and provide an incentive to join the scheme), but this was rejected.