Over the last two decades, carsharing has weaved its way into the fabric of mobility options within cities worldwide and has become increasingly accessible across North America. As carsharing has grown, it has entered a number of new markets, including colleges and universities, where it helps to meet the transportation needs for students, faculty, and staff.
Despite its growth, college/university carsharing impacts on its users has been sparsely covered by researchers to date, which prompted UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) to conduct a study of staff, students, and faculty who were already Zipcar members.
Through the study, TSRC researchers were able to obtain over 10,000 survey responses and acquired user travel data to understand the differences in overall travel behavior among college/university carsharing users and analyze its effect on vehicle ownership among other impacts (e.g., public transit use, walking, bicycling, carpooling). The list below highlights some of the most significant findings from the research.
1. Selling or Putting off a Vehicle Purchase: 5.2 percent of college/university members sold or postponed purchasing a vehicle due to having access and utilizing Zipcar as their main means of transportation. The study also found that 42 percent of respondents are less likely to acquire a car in the next few years because of the availability of carsharing.
2. Reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions: Researchers found that the reduction in cars on the road (vehicles sold or postponed due to carsharing) outweighs the extra driving in Zipcar vehicles and reduces overall VMT by as much as 5 percent. This translates to a reduction of GHG emissions by up to 2.6 percent.
3. Big Impact on VMT & Ownership, but Not as Big as Other Carsharing: While the two points above are significant, previous carsharing studies have observed more notable reductions in VMT and vehicle ownership, which is likely due to the unique makeup of college users, and their less frequent commuting needs.
4. Positive Impact on Quality of Life, Especially in the Central US: The study found that users saved money on transportation expenses and had more flexibility and accessibility in trip choice, especially for those at colleges/universities in the central US.
As we move forward and technologies, like driverless vehicles and smartphones, become more capable and pervasive, carsharing services are expected to leverage these technologies to have an expanded share in personal mobility, both on and off college/university campuses, and its impacts on reducing vehicle ownership, VMT, and GHG emissions are expected to grow commensurately. Moving forward, might students opt to avoid a private car purchase during their college years altogether and pursue a carefree lifestyle long after graduation?
Visit Innovative Mobility to read the full report and to explore more research in shared mobility.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.