Bridging the Gap Between Evacuations and the Sharing Economy


This paper examines the opportunities for addressing evacuations by leveraging the sharing economy. To support this research, we use a mixed-method approach employing archival research of sharing economy actions, 24 high-ranking expert interviews, and a survey of individuals impacted by Hurricane Irma in 2017 (n=645). Using these data, we contribute to the literature in four key ways. First, we summarize sharing economy company actions in 30 U.S. disasters. Second, we discuss results from 24 expert interviews on 11 sharing economy benefits (ranging from resource redundancy to positive company press coverage) and 13 limitations (ranging from driver reliability to the digital divide). Experts included six directors/executives of emergency/transportation agencies, two executives of sharing economy companies, and eight senior-level agency leaders. Third, we use these interviews, specifically negative opinions of the sharing economy, to inform our Hurricane Irma survey, which contributes empirical evidence of the feasibility of shared resources. Despite just 1.1% and 5.4% of respondents using transportation network companies (TNCs, also known as ridesourcing and ridehailing) and homesharing respectively during the Irma evacuation, some respondents were extremely willing to offer their own resources including transportation before evacuating (29.1%), transportation while evacuating (23.6%), and shelter for free (19.2%) in a future disaster. We also find spare capacity of private assets exists for future evacuations with just 11.1% and 16% of respondents without spare seatbelts and beds/mattresses, respectively. Finally, we conclude with practice-ready policy recommendations for public agencies to leverage shared resources including: communication partnerships, surge flagging (i.e., identifying and reducing unfair price increases), and community-based sharing systems.

Stephen Wong, Joan Walker, and Susan Shaheen
Publication date: 
April 13, 2020
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Wong, S.D., Walker, J.L. & Shaheen, S.A. Bridging the gap between evacuations and the sharing economy. Transportation (2020).