Evaluating Carsharing Benefits

Evaluating Carsharing Benefits

This report discusses the varying benefits of carsharing and why individual vehicle ownership causes problems for cities and has a lesser public benefit than carsharing.

"Carsharing refers to automobile rental services intended to substitute for private vehicle ownership, with vehicles located in neighborhoods, are rented by the hour, and easy to check in and out. Carsharing services are increasingly common. Carsharing gives consumers a practical alternative to owning a personal vehicle that is driven less than about 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometres) per year. Carsharing has lower fixed costs and higher variable costs than private vehicle ownership. This price structure makes occasional use of a vehicle affordable, even to low-income households. It also gives drivers an incentive to minimize their vehicle use and rely on other travel options as much as possible. Carsharing typically reduces average vehicle use by 40-60% among drivers who rely on it, making it an important transportation demand management strategy."

Key findings

"A major barrier to carsharing reaching its full potential "is the need to establish and maintain a critical mass of users (typically 30 members or more) in individual neighborhoods. Carsharing cannot develop until enough potential users in each area are familiar with the concept, understand how it can benefit them, and develop trust in the organizations. This will require education and marketing. Carshare organizations may require seed money to become established."

"Carsharing both supports and is supported by most other transportation demand management (TDM) strategies.22 TDM strategies include measures that increase travel choice and reduce market distortions that encourage excessive automobile travel. These strategies tend to have synergetic effects: they are more effective implemented together than separately. Over the long term they help create a more diverse transportation system and reduce automobile dependency in a community. Other TDM strategies that integrate with carsharing are described below."

"Carsharing need not be managed as a cooperative to achieve the benefits described [in this report]. For-profit neighborhood car rentals may provide comparable service. They could become more economically viable if rental transactions could be self-serviced or handled as a sideline by existing businesses, such as local stores and service stations. Ironically, one of the best ways to reduce automobile dependency may be to develop a new automobile business: neighborhood car rental services."

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