As shared mobility options continue to emerge and evolve, there is a lack of clarity regarding what services exist and how these services impact our urban environments. UC Berkeley’s TSRC (Transportation Sustainability Research Center) recently developed a holistic guide that compares and contrasts these services.
On a fundamental level, shared mobility is the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other low-speed mode that enables users to have short-term access to transportation modes, as needed. Pushed primarily by demographic shifts, societal attitudes toward ownership, and advances in mobile technology, these modes are growing rapidly and becoming more numerous. Some documented impacts of these modes are reviewed here.
Carsharing’s selected impacts
Carsharing is a program where individuals have temporary access to a vehicle without the costs and responsibilities of ownership. Individuals typically access vehicles by joining an organization that maintains a fleet of cars and light trucks deployed in lots located within neighborhoods, public transit stations, employment centers and colleges or universities.
Carsharing has been demonstrated to have a notable impact on automobile ownership and use among its users. TSRC studies have found that 25 percent of roundtrip carsharing members sold a vehicle due to carsharing and another 25 percent postponed purchasing a vehicle.
Further, one carsharing vehicle replaces 9 to 13 vehicles among carsharing members. Several studies of roundtrip carsharing have found that members saved an average of 154 to 435 US Dollars per month per carsharing household when compared to their private vehicle-use expenses.
Types: Roundtrip carsharing; Peer-to-peer carsharing; One-way carsharing; Fractional ownership carsharing
Bikesharing’s selected impacts
Bikesharing is a program in which users or members of the public access bicycles employ the vehicles on an as-needed basis for one-way (point-to-point) or roundtrip travel. Station-based bikesharing kiosks are typically unattended and concentrated in urban settings; they offer one-way station-based service (bicycles can be returned to any kiosk).
In contrast, free-floating bikesharing offers users the ability to check-out a bicycle and return it to any location within a predefined geographic region. Bikesharing provides a variety of pickup and drop-off locations.
Bikesharing, as one may assume, has been shown to encourage bicycling and reduce automobile use. 58 percent of bikesharing members increased their cycling, while 5.5 percent of members have sold or postponed a vehicle purchase as a result of bikesharing.
Interestingly, in denser cities like Washington, D.C., bikesharing members were more likely to use bikesharing in lieu of public transit, whereas, in less dense cities like Minneapolis, bikesharing users were more likely to increase their transit use by using it to connect with public transit stations.
Types: Public bikesharing; Peer-to-peer bikesharing; Closed-campus bikesharing
Ridesharing’s selected impacts
Ridesharing is carpooling or vanpooling. This is the second largest travel mode in the U.S. after driving alone. Ridesharing facilitates formal or informal shared rides between drivers and passengers with similar origin-destination pairings. Vanpooling consists of 7-15 passengers who share the cost of the van and operating expenses and may share the responsibility of driving.
In California, if by 2040 there is a 5 percent increase in the adoption rates of carpooling, there would be a 2.9 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled. The California Department of Transportation estimates that if California converts all its 2+ High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to 3+, a reduction in VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) by 0.8 percent could be achieved.
Carpooling and vanpooling have the added benefit of reducing driver costs. A vanpool could cost between 100 and 300 US Dollars per person per month, although this varies considerably depending on gas prices, local market conditions, and government subsidies. Flexible carpoolers could save two-thirds the cost of commuting alone in a single-occupancy vehicle.
Types: Carpooling; Vanpooling
Ridesourcing or Transportation network companies’ selected impacts
Ridesourcing services (also known as transportation network companies or TNCs) provide prearranged and on-demand transportation services for compensation, which connect drivers of personal vehicles with passengers. Smartphone applications are used for booking, ratings (for both drivers and passengers) and electronic payment.
Ridesourcing warrants more study, given its rapid market penetration and evolution.
Types: Transportation Network Companies, Ridesourcing; Ridesplitting; E-Hail apps
Alternative transit services’ selected impacts
Alternative transit services is a broad category that encompasses high-tech employer shuttles, paratransit, and private sector transit solutions commonly referred to as microtransit. Microtransit can include fixed route or flexible route services, as well as offer fixed schedules or on-demand service.
While considered somewhat controversial, a San Francisco County Transportation Authority study found that 63 percent of shuttle passengers would drive alone, if the shuttle service were not provided. These shuttles also produce only 20 percent of the emissions that would have been emitted by the vehicles they take off the road and result in a net reduction of vehicles on Bay Area roads.
Types: Fixed route and fixed schedule microtransit; Flexible route and on-demand schedule microtransit; High-tech employer shuttles
The future of shared mobility
The advent of carsharing, bikesharing, ridesourcing or TNCs and other innovative mobility services is changing how urban travelers access transportation and move within cities. The use of these systems has led to several documented environmental, social and transportation-related impacts that are beneficial to our cities.
As these mobility options continue to grow in modal share, it is imperative to continue to study these modes and thereby, understand how cities can leverage these beneficial impacts to create more sustainable, safe and efficient transportation systems.
With so many shared mobility services available, how do you choose the right transportation mode? Share your opinions in the comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.