Jump In: In front, Magda Asfaw and Torsten Herbst, in the back, Lachlan Abbott and Tim Womac, share a ride to Barton. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Car sharing has never come naturally to Canberra's public servants but one young local entrepreneur and the city's global warming activists want to change all that.
Torsten Herbst says his car-pooling website could be just the thing to change the habits of a lifetime and help the bureaucrats of the Parliamentary Triangle beat the looming paid-parking regime.
Canberra's climate change action groups are also trying to jump-start a scheme to get more of the capital's drivers into fewer cars.
As departmental staffers struggle to think of ways around the $11-a-day fee to park in areas that have been free for decades, Mr Herbst says his website coseats.com may be the solution.
"It started in 2011, initially as a taxi-sharing site for people commuting to and from the airport," he said.
"It morphed more or less into a ride-sharing site because most of the people who are keen on ride sharing are backpackers or travellers who have incentives to share to avoid big fuel costs.
"But we've always promoted it as a car-pooling site as well."
Mr Herbst, who is not quite ready to give up his day job as a software engineer, says that ride sharing has always been more popular among the time-rich backpacking crowd than with harried bureaucrats.
"Car pooling is for commuters and ride sharing is more for interstate travellers," he said.
"Car pooling has been a tougher crowd to crack.
''I think it's an older crowd with people maybe more protective of their cars.
"Timing can be an issue, too, with people going to and from work, it's harder for people to leave at the same time."
But the new hardline pay-parking policy to be enforced on all Commonwealth-owned land in and around the Triangle from July 1, could well mean that coseats' time has come.
"We've followed this whole discussion about the Parliamentary Triangle and the public service complaining about having to pay $11 a day," Mr Herbst said.
"That's quite a bit, if you're on an average salary and you have to pay more than $2000 a year.
"There's been no shortage of initiatives from the government sector, even the private sector, to promote car pooling but it's never really caught on. But if you factor in parking and not just petrol costs, then it could be a more interesting proposition."
Mr Herbst says that a key feature of his site is sure to appeal to the typical Canberra budget-conscious bureaucrat: if you don't hook up a ride to work, you don't pay.
Jodie Pipkorn, executive officer of local climate-change pressure group SEE-Change, said it had approached the territory government with a proposition on car sharing.
"The proposal we have put forward consists of running a competitive process for companies to compete in, and bid, to be the first car-share company in the ACT," she said.
"To get this under way, the government only needs to commit to allocating at least 10 parking spaces and to provide some initial support by using the car-share cars for part of their government car fleet."