Mobility and the Sharing Economy: Impacts Synopsis

By Susan Shaheen, Ph.D. and Nelson Chan

Shared Mobility - the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other low-speed mode - is an innovativetransportation solution that enables users to have short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis. Shared mobility includes carsharing, personal vehicle sharing (or peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing), bikesharing, scooter sharing, shuttle services, ridesharing, and on-demand ride services. It can also include commercial delivery vehicles providing flexible goods movement. Shared mobility has had a transformative impact on many global cities by enhancing transportation accessibility while simultaneously reducing ownership of personal automobiles. In the context of carsharing and bikesharing, vehicles and bicycles are typically unattended, concentrated in a network of locations where the transaction of checking out a vehicle or bicycles is facilitated through information technology (IT) and other technological innovations. Usually, carsharing and bikesharing operators are responsible for the cost of maintenance, storage, parking, and insurance/fuel (if applicable). In the context of classic ridesharing (carpooling and vanpooling) and on-demand ride services, such as transportation network companies (TNCs), many of these providers employ IT to facilitate the matching of riders and drivers for trip making.

Shared mobility modes have reported a number of environmental, social, and transportation - related benefits. Several studies have documented the reduction of vehicle usage, ownership, and vehicle miles/kilometers traveled (VMT/VKT). Cost savings and convenience are frequently cited as popular reasons for shifting to a shared mode. Shared modes can also extend the catchment area of public transit, potentially playing a pivotal role in bridging gaps in existing transportation networks and encouraging multi-modality by addressing the first-and-last mile issue related to public transit access. Shared mobility is also thought to provide economic benefits in the form of cost savings, increased economic activity near public transit stations and multi-modal hubs, and increased access by creating opportunities for new trips not previously accessible by traditional public transportation and by enabling new one-way (or point-to-point) service options previously unavailable.

In North America, the first carsharing and bikesharing programs launched in 1994. Shared mobility services have grown rapidly since the mid-1990s. In addition to carsharing and bikesharing, there has been burgeoning activity and new launches in P2P carsharing; scooter sharing; IT-based ridesharing; and on-demand ride services, such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. Economic, environmental, and social forces have pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream, and its role in urban mobility has become a popular topic of discussion.

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