In progressive cities, transportation officials recognize that personal mobility based on private car ownership has great costs to the public purse directly in infrastructure and maintenance costs, and indirectly through productivity losses due to traffic congestion and health costs attributable to air quality and commuting stress. Smart land use planning combined with walking, cycling, public transit and shared-use vehicles produces public benefits by reducing total vehicle miles travelled, alleviating pollution and congestion issues, and making our communities more livable.
The American Automobile Association estimates that a mid-sized car costs more than $9,000 annually to own and operate. Apart from the financial savings of not owning a car, not spending your valuable time in traffic behind the wheel of a car is an added benefit. If you take public transit, you’ll see people are making best use of travel time to check messages, read, and make plans using a wireless device. If personal mobility means walking further than your garage to connect with transit or a shared-use vehicle, you’ll get a small measure of daily physical activity that improves overall health. Choosing to give up private car ownership is daunting prospect for many because, let’s face it, having a car is very useful. Shared-use mobility means you don’t need to own a depreciating asset to access the service a car provides. In places where carsharing is well-developed, consumers can choose from a wide variety of vehicles that can be reserved whenever a car is needed.
New developments like Greenpoint Landing in Brooklyn are places where shared-used vehicles could play a major role in reducing private car ownership. If planners limit the number of private parking stalls associated with housing units, increase the number of accessible surface-level parking spaces for carsharing vehicles, create a transparent and fair process that allows multiple service providers to offer a range of carsharing services (e.g. station-based, round-trip, free-floating, one-way), consumers will reach their ‘tipping point’ where the benefits of shared-use systems are greater than those offered by the private car.
City, state, and federal governments must make investments in public transportation infrastructure and carsharing systems to break our dependence on the privately-owned car as a primary means of transportation. For policy makers that want communities attractive to business investment and new residents, shared-use vehicles are a part of the solution for personal mobility.