*Photograph: Eamon Ward
A three month pilot scheme described as a ‘voluntary rural uber’ is being trialled in Carrigaholt.
Clare Local Lift was launched on Friday morning at The Long Dock by Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen. Through a special app created by Kerry company Arvoia, drivers and passengers are able to connect with each other and arrange lifts when both parties are travelling in the same direction.
Communication is done via the app’s built-in messaging service when a travel arrangement is agreed, users do not obtain contact details of others but are able to look at the profile of the individual that has either offered them a lift and drivers can do likewise when they see a request from a person wishing to travel to a certain location, here they will see the history detailing the journeys already undertaken by personnel as part of the scheme. Once the journey concludes, all messages are deleted.
Financial support for the initiative was provided by Clare County Council and Enterprise Ireland. It is the first scheme of its kind in Ireland and forms part of the Clare Rural Development Strategy with the emphasis on transportation and tackling rural isolation.
Director of Service for Rural Development within the County Council, Leonard Cleary highlighted the importance of sustainability for new projects. “We’re also looking at challenging more traditional approaches to rural development to see how we can embrace new ways and new initiatives, today’s project is in the technology piece in bringing that in as an enabler of rural development. We’re also very conscious about a sustainable approach to rural development and that is why a community such as Carrigaholt in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way was selected, looking at a sustainable approach to tourism which is being led locally by the Loop Head tourism group but also the development associations in the parishes throughout the area.
“It is important that any development that happens on the economic side is sustainable but also on the tourism piece is sustainable and also the host environments and communities that are here. The strategy is trying to build up a shared future for the future of rural Clare”.
Carrigaholt’s strengths as a location for the local lift were emphasised by VP of Customer Success with Arvoia, Donal O’Leary. “Carrigaholt were identified early in the process as an ideal choice, it is a well-structured, tight-knit, close group. They are the ideal choice for the challenge and hopefully they will get the rewards that is coming for them for the efforts so far. There will be a lot of eyes on this, I would just ask we help by spreading the word, signing up if you’re a driver or passenger in the local community”.
Minister of State, Pat Breen (FG) echoed this and referred to CSO statistics that car ownership in Loop Head was at 18.5 percent. “Look at how things have changed in urban areas, look at MyTaxi, Uber, when I started off as a TD in Dublin I had to go out on the road and hail a taxi, now you have an app on your phone which tells you where exactly the taxi is, what time it’s coming and you can plot its journey along the way. This is what technology is doing to society in urban areas, let the same technology do the very same in rural areas”.
Breen suggested people give the gift of a lift this Christmas. “One present for Christmas is if you can offer a person a lift to mass, Kilrush or Kilkee, it is really good to enhance community spirit and it is using technology to do it. I’m really looking forward to this but as I said at the launch of Aer Lingus’ new Shannon services to Paris and Barcelona, if you don’t use this service then you will lose them. I would hope that a strategy will be taking throughout West Clare, this will be a pilot for three months and we want to make it work, we really want to make this work in West Clare to show exactly what we can do in the Loop Peninsula”.
Already there is an anticipation to see the results of the pilot stage, a mood that was captured by Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF). “This project is as much about social connectedness as it is about transportation, it is about leveraging community based goodwill and supporting it with the appropriate IT applications”.
As part of the pilot scheme, the app is only available on Android phones. However, Clare County Council have a limited supply of mobiles that can be used by personnel wishing to use the Local Lift. For further details on the scheme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.