As Malta’s summer makes way for the cooler, busier school seasons, traffic jams have reared their ugly heads again. With recent NSO figures from this summer showing that 43 cars are added to Maltese roads every day, the situation’s only getting worse. Pair this with the impossible task of finding parking in places like the University, and you’ve got yourself a morning nightmare.
A group of University students have not only clocked this issue, but come up with a viable solution. And days into the new semester, Carpool Malta is going from strength to strength.
The concept behind the Facebook group is simple; people name their next destination, their place and time of departure, and how many seats are available. With only a small set of rules – like posting about your journey at least two hours before you intend on leaving – the group promised members a workaround to Malta’s congested mornings.
Very quickly, the group was filled with people from all over Malta offering a space in their car to any members, and the initiative exploded.
On Wednesday morning, Carpool Malta admin Matthew Vella shared a photo of Mia Macelli, the first person who managed to fill her car with three other passengers on her drive to University.
Macelli left from Balzan just after seven in the morning, and 20 minutes later, was parked at the University car park, taking up one space instead of the four that would’ve otherwise been required.
“It doesn’t take much to offer or accept a lift except to change your mentality and do something about traffic,” Matthew explained. “The authorities, as we know, are doing nothing.”
“I got the idea when I was in France and I saw a system called BlaBlaCar which exists for people to share their cars for long distance journeys,” Matthew Vella told Lovin Malta. “I created this group towards the end of August, and one month later, we’ve got over 3,000 members. In the first four days of schools reopening, the increase in members was more than double the increase of the whole previous month. I believe this gives an indication as to the amount of frustration Maltese commuters have, and, hopefully, a willingness to help alleviate the problem.”
“Lately, I also added an excel sheet pinned to the top of the group where people can write the details of the lift they’re offering, so that people can find it easier to find lifts, as there was a problem with so many people posting that older posts were pushed down and ending up not being seen”.
“We are also trying to form microgroups,” Matthew told Lovin Malta. “Like this, people will look for other people who are doing routing commutes which are similar to theirs, and they can extend this to more than just a one-time thing. They can for example open a WhatsApp group for the group and start sharing lifts on a daily basis”.
“I feel the authorities are not doing enough to help the situation in traffic,” Vella said. “We must all get out of our comfort zone and start a shift in our mentality to try to solve the massive traffic congestions our country suffers from.”
“Though the group is up and running, with a number of people already offering and accepting lifts, we need to spread the word more. If Maltese people feel this is a losing battle, I would like to inform them that Amsterdam, today the bicycle capital city in the world, was itself a mess of cars, traffic and pollution in the 1970s. Only with a massive effort from the people and the politicians, did change finally arrive.”