Carsharing is the short-term use of a shared vehicle fleet by authorized members. Since 1998, U.S. carsharing services have experienced exponential growth. At present, there are 13 carsharing organizations. Over the past three years, electronic and wireless technologies have been developed that can facilitate carsharing system management in the U.S., improve customer services, and reduce program costs. This paper examines the U.S. carsharing market; the role of advanced tehchnology in program management, including CarLink lessons learned; and technology benefits to this nascent market.
There has been significant interest and activity in shared-use vehicle systems as an innovative mobility solution. Shared-use vehicle systems, that is, carsharing and station cars, consist of a fleet of vehicles used by several different individuals throughout the day. Shared-use vehicles offer the convenience of a private automobile and more flexibility than public transportation alone. From the 1990s to today, varying degrees of intelligent transportation system technologies have been applied to shared-use systems, providing better manageability and customer service.
Shared-use vehicle services provide members access to a vehicle fleet for use on an as-needed basis, without the hassles and costs of individual auto ownership. From June 2001 to July 2002, the authors surveyed 18 U.S. shared-use vehicle organizations on a range of topics, including organizational size, partnerships, pricing, costs, and technology. Although survey findings demonstrate a decline in the number of organizational starts in the last year, operational launches into new cities, membership, and fleet size continue to increase.
In the past, the majority of Chinese cities have developed with low-levels of automobile dependence, resulting in high-density centers that are well served by transit. However, a number of policies and factors are now in place that promote "motorization," resulting in increased automobile dependency in these cities. Increased personal automobile ownership in China is having a significant impact on the quality of human life in terms of land use, pollutant emissions, greenhouse gases, and energy supplies.
In this paper, researchers present simulation findings from three innovative mobility scenarios (forecast to 2025) using an advanced regional travel demand model. This model was employed to approximate the effects of transit-based carsharing (short-term vehicle access linked to transit), real-time transit information services, and carfree housing (residential developments designed with limited parking provisions) in the Sacramento region. The scenarios are evaluated against travel, emission, and economic benefits criteria.
CarLink II was a commuter-based carsharing pilot project administered by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (ITS-Davis) in conjunction with Caltrans, American Honda Motor Company, and Caltrain. California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) researchers conducted the evaluation. Pilot objectives included testing an advanced carsharing system, understanding user response to this service, and testing its long-term sustainability.
Since the late-1990s, over 25 U.S. shared-use vehicle programs - including carsharing and station cars - have been launched. Given their presumed social and environmental benefits, the majority of these programs received some governmental support - primarily in the form of startup grants and subsidized parking. As of July 2003, there were a total of 15 shared-use vehicle programs, including 11 carsharing organizations, two carsharing research pilots, and two station car programs, Over the last five years, U.S. carsharing membership has experienced exponential growth.
Since 1998, carsharing programs (or short-term auto rentals) in the U.S. have experienced exponential membership growth. As of July 2003, 15 carsharing organizations collectively claimed 25,727 members and 784 vehicles. Given this growing demand, decision makers and transit operators are increasingly interested in understanding the potential for carsharing services to increase transit use, reduce auto ownership, and lower vehicle miles traveled. However, to date, there is only limited evidence of potential program effects in the U.S. and Europe.
Transit accounts for just two percent of total travel in the U.S. One reason for low ridership is limited access; many individuals either live or work too far from a transit station. In developing transit connectivity solutions, researchers often employ a range of study instruments, such as stated-preference surveys, focus groups, and pilot programs. To better understand response to one innovative transit solution, the authors employed a number of research tools, including: a longitudinal survey, field test, and pilot program.
Susan Shaheen wrote "Car-Sharing Continues to Gain Momentum" chapter, which provides an overview of carsharing impacts, developments, and prospects worldwide.