More than 200 people from 18 countries attended the Carsharing Conference in Vancouver on September 22-23. Participating were carsharing operators, mobility technology companies, public transit employees, city staff, elected officials, and consultants.
In the opening remarks, the question was asked “How do we increase carsharing tenfold?” and “What are the barriers to this growth?” Throughout the program, the opportunity to make shared mobility more accessible and attractive to the travelling public was explored in three themes:
Cities: Use of Public Space for Shared Mobility – As the public sector controls a vast inventory of strategic parking resources, carsharing organizations need to work together with civic transportation planners, parking managers and elected officials to demonstrate the synergy between carsharing and the goals of the city. Research demonstrating the link between carsharing and reduced levels of private car ownership, reduced vehicle miles travelled and increased use of walking, cycling and public transit modes is important. Carsharing organizations will be expected provide data and reporting to transportation authorities to illustrate the impact that carsharing has on the overall transportation system.
To reduce traffic congestion and improve the problem of scarce parking resources, cities will need political leadership to discourage private auto ownership. With political support, progressive policies for parking, use of the public right of way, taxation make shared use vehicles relatively more attractive than private cars. Encouraging shared car mobility helps cities to reach their sustainability goals and improve the quality of life for all residents.
Some of the characteristics of the ideal carsharing city are:
- City administration uses carsharing vehicles for city business and makes the vehicles available for use by the public on weekends and evenings
- City makes public lands available for parking carsharing vehicles
- City makes allowances for reduced parking requirements when land developers include carsharing in new housing projects
Public Transit: Integrated Mobility – The opportunity for combining, carsharing, bike sharing, ridesharing and ridesourcing with bus and rail systems is full of promise. By putting the customer at the center and offering a broad choice of mobility options, public transit authorities can increase ridership and discourage the use of private automobiles in cities. There are examples of pilot projects between new mobility providers and public transit that reduce operating costs and increase ridership, but most partnerships are still at the discussion stages. Much more work remains to develop a seamless multi-modal experience for the traveling public.
Technology: Smartphones, Connected Cars and Autonomous Vehicles – Clearly, having access to information in the palm of your hand has transformed the way people think about mobility. Ther was an interesting discussion about how open data standards can allow carsharing inventory to be shared across various aggregator/reseller platforms. New technology is emerging that allows carsharing organizations to optimize fleet deployment and increase yields. The user interface for booking and paying for shared cars is improving – making it easier for new members to get into vehicles and start driving.
Other topics discussed included the wide variety of applications of carsharing in business and government fleets. Eliminating “grey fleets” (employee-owned vehicles being used for business purposes), and requiring staff to use shared cars has proved to be more economical for businesses. When the distance-based reimbursements paid to employees are eliminated, the economics of using private cars for commuting purposes changes and using alternative transportation for the journey to work becomes more attractive.
Electric Vehicle Carsharing – Electric vehicle carsharing fleets have been deployed in Paris, Amsterdam, Indianapolis, San Diego and Copenhagen. Other EV sharing systems are planned for Singapore, Montreal and Auckland. Constraints to the expansion of EV sharing systems include lack of consumer awareness about electric vehicle technologies (performance vs. conventional cars, battery range, charging requirements) and limited appetite from consumers to drive electric vehicles. Additional challenges include finding suitable public locations for charging infrastructure and the financing of electric cars and charging stations.
Electric vehicles also have certain advantages in carsharing. Urban carsharing trips are generally short distance and short time duration, consuming just a fraction of a full battery charge. Electric drive is much quieter than combustion engines and does not produce tailpipe emissions making urban roadways more compatible for mixed use with pedestrians. Consumers have the opportunity to “try out” electric car technology without having to purchase it. A carsharing member may choose a conventional gasoline-powered car when required for a longer trip outside city center.
The Carsharing Association will continue to work on partnerships within the transportation community to advance the social and environmental benefits of carsharing. To keep up with developments at CSA, please sign up for our (infrequent) newsletter, and follow us on twitter at @carsharing.