Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Bright Future for Carsharing?

Carsharing is quietly growing and expanding to ever more cities. But will carsharing ever become mainstream?

Dave Brook at the US Carsharing blog recently outlined an optimistic vision for the future of car-sharing.

A Flexcar promotion in Seattle in 2007 (Flexcar is now part of Zipcar).
Image by Joe Mabel on Wikimedia Commons.


His scenario may not be quite as 'visionary' as Chris Bradshaw's ideas, which I have mentioned before, but is well worth a look. The comments discussion is also enlightening.

As you would expect, his focus is on American conditions.

Here are some highlights:
Carsharing will be in the suburbs, as well, and not just around transit hubs and regional centers where higher density mixed used development can support carsharing. ...

Car owners will be able to make their cars available to the carsharing members for a few days at a time and share the revenues with the service. ...

Carsharing will team up with public transit agencies, including a newly-invigorated Amtrak, to offer integrated regional mobility passes. [Note that this already happening in Europe] ...

As a result carsharing membership could grow to 10-15% of the drivers living in neighborhoods served by carsharing — up from the 1-2% now.

I wonder, would such ambitions require public policy effort? Without supportive government action could the industry achieve the critical-mass necessary to make these outcomes possible? Or are there market scenarios in which Dave's predictions will come to pass?

This reminds me to mention Singapore.

It has been hard to be optimistic about carsharing here recently. Two of the four main operators (Honda Diracc and CitySpeed) have closed shop within the last year (leaving the market to NTUC Income's Car Coop and Whizzcar).

This densely-populated island should, in theory, be fertile ground for carsharing but even here a nurturing role from government may be needed for the industry to grow beyond its existing small niche.

However, the authorities are not persuaded that they should do anything. They prefer to leave it to the market to decide. Are they right to take this hands-off approach or is this a missed opportunity?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Paul,

    I've been impressed with the penetration that Zipcar has made into the DC market and in less than ten years after creation are already present in more than forty cities across the country. As to the 1-3% percent of total transport share quoted in one post, I'm unsure, but for urban dwellers who can get by through light rail/heavy rail for most of their commuting needs, car-sharing presents a viable alternative for point-to-point travel. This has definitely been encouraged by the high gas prices as the company includes all gas into their per hour/per day rates. I'd be very curious to know if other schemes have been as successful in European cities. If so, perhaps this could indicate that Singaporean attitudes need to evolve further before such practices can see adoption on the wider scale, unless the economics are tweaked just so.

    Cheers from DC!
    Anthony D'Agostino

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks very much Anthony for sharing that. Currently Switzerland is the country with highest market penetration for carsharing. The US Carsharing blog (http://carsharingus.blogspot.com/) has links to lots more information.

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