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MBA: Car Sharing

In the third episode of Moving Beyond the Automobile, we take a look at a more efficient way to use a car.  Car sharing allows users to evaluate the full cost of each car trip, which encourages them to decide what the most appropriate mode choice is for a specific trip. 

Zipcar, a leading global car sharing organization, reports that members walk and bike 10-15% more than they did before joining Zipcar.  They also report that members save $600 a month when they choose car sharing over owning a private automobile.

So while car sharing isn't exactly "Moving Beyond the Automobile," it is a great way for cities and individuals to help make the transportation network more efficient and become less dependent on owning a private cars.

(Note: This series is made possible by funding from the Fund for The Environment & Urban Life.)

<br> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Robin Chase:</i>  [00:14] One of the things that intrigues me about both car sharing and ride sharing is that it can dramatically change the number of trips that an individual takes, and the number of people in that car.  Car sharing makes people pay the full cost of each trip as they drive.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Mark Norman:</i>  [00:31] They save $600 per month in what they would have otherwise spent operating and parking and insuring a personal car.  But they also tell us that it helps with personal health, that they walk, they bike 10 to 15% more than they did otherwise.  Zipcar is a global car sharing organisation.  Car sharing is a better way to use a car.  It enables members to join simply with providing a drivers license, a credit card, they pay an annual fee and then they get a card in the mail that is their access to what I call is a flexible fleet at their fingertips, different types of cars that they can reserve for one all inclusive rate, by the hour or by the day.  That rate includes gas, insurance of $300,000 of liability, more like a personal policy, and maintenance and home location parking.  You pick up the car and return it to its home location.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Hans Vanderscheff:</i>  [01:25] I use car share in two main ways.  I use it at home.  My wife and I do own a car but we share a car between the two of us and often we need to go get things for our home or run errands or move furniture.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Mark Norman:</i>  [01:38] When a member joins zipcar, 40% of them tell us that they avoided buying a car or were able to sell a car thanks to the wheels when you want them convenience of zipcar.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Hans Vanderscheff:</i>  [01:48] The second way is that the non profit that I work for is called the Freshwater Trust and we use zipcar quite extensively for our travel in the region.  Our staff go out to project sites and they use zipcar at that point.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Mark Norman:</i>  [02:02] We work closely with a number of our host municipalities that do a number of things to support car sharing and encourage good behaviour and good policy.  A couple of things like the allocation of on street parking spaces and designating them and enforcing ticket and tow policies that support car sharing.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:</i>  [02:20] We have taken public parking spaces and given them to car sharing companies to raise the visibility of car sharing.  Now when people visit and they see these big orange poles on the streets, and they think about moving here, they realise they don’t need to have a car.  Car sharing has become an extension of the public transportation system.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Mark Norman:</i> [02:39] Some even walk the talk with their own municipal budgets where the district of Colombia uses zipcar technology in its city owned fleet to enable them to have fewer cars with the latest hybrid and environmental friendly technology.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:</i> [02:52] We have more people using car sharing per capita than almost anywhere in the country.  Regionally through metro, through Arlington, through DC government, there was a push to promote car sharing, and I think that that’s one of the reasons we’ve seen a 5.6% decline in car registrations from 2005 to 2008.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Mark Norman:</i>  [03:15] Portland was one of the first cities in North America for car sharing, it started in 1998.  In addition to being just a progressive, very walkable city with a very high use of cycling for daily commuting, about 9% of people in Portland cycle to work on a regular basis, they’ve also had a very progressive approach in city planning.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Dan Bower:</i>  [03:32] Beyond providing the spaces for the car sharing companies to use, the city supports car sharing by putting signage in each space and enforcing the spaces.  Our most recent survey here in Portland shows the number of people who drive less than 1000 miles per year increased from 28% to 48% after they joined zipcar.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Robin Chase:</i>  [03:50] So when people are car sharing, which means they’re paying for cars by the hour or by the day, they totally rationalise which is the right mode choice for any particular errand.  </font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> Transcription Sponsored by: <a href="http://transcriptdivas.com.au">Transcript Divas Transcription Services</a>
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  • Louis Mazerolle

    Another very good exemple of car sharing is Communauto in Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke which exist since 1994. It has now more than 20 000 users and has arrangements with Via Rail (train), local public transport, taxi and BIXI (bike sharing in Montreal).


  • http://Carsharing.org Kevin McLaughlin

    For a list of transit-oriented carsharing organizations across the USA, Canada, Australia & Brasil, check out the CarSharing Association at CarSharing.org

  • Lewis Erskine

    I'm a Zipcar member, but I don't think of Zipcar as car sharing, it is more like smart car rental. I pay to use the car when I need it, then I put it back. Nothing is shared. It is a for profit business.
    It _is_ a great idea. It has saved me the hassle of car ownership, but it isn't always cheaper than a good used car. Do I drive less? Yes. Am I sharing? No.

  • Ruth Smith

    Great video. I am really noticing more and more zip cars down here in Washington. Its a very good alternative to owning a car and you really do not drive as much as you plan less trips to do more on each trip. Keep up the excellent info to us. Sharing is terrific too.

  • http://pedalpressure.blogspot.com/ John_in_NH

    @Lewis, its car share because the car is shared between many potential drivers (members of zipcar) it may be that you are the only one currently using a car, but not for much longer looking at the growth of car share companies.

    It is a for-profit business based on sharing a single car between many potential drivers.

    Peer-to-peer car sharing is something that is still developing, where the car is actually shared, thats different.

  • http://ride-or-pie.blogspot.com Harald

    I really like this series and I also like car sharing. However, this video sounds like an free advertisement for zipcar, making it sound as if zipcar has invented car sharing and is the only one offering it. As others have pointed out, Zipcar is a for-profit company and thus has an interest not reducing their members' driving too much. There are lots of other, more community-based car sharing organizations out there. Not mentioning them seems rather odd.

    Disclosure: I'm a happy Ithaca Carshare member.

  • zach

    Car sharing is new generation car rental. They're both rental and they're both sharing; the names are misleading. (How many fools out there think buttermilk has more fat than regular milk?)

    They're both great. I use zipcar, but I'd be perfectly happy to use one of the traditional companies if it were around the corner and had insurance and gas built in, and I didn't have to wait in line to make small talk to an employee.

    I usually get a zipcar by the day to get out of town. It's not so much cheaper (maybe slightly) than Hertz or Enterprise, but it's a whole lot easier.

  • John Murdock

    Car sharing is great!  Too bad zipcar is only in big cities and moderate income neighborhoods.   

  • Brendon

    What about all the great independent, local, non-profit car sharing organisations all over the US & Canada? City CarShare (San Francisco), Philly CarShare, Ithaca CarShare, CarShare Vermont, eGo CarShare (Boulder/Denver), Ashland CarShare, HourCar (Twin Cities), Car Coop (Vancouver, B.C.), among many others. They should at least get a mention in a story about car sharing, no? They're all very tansit/bike oriented, and are all about REDUCING driving, car ownership and serving their local communities, as opposed to just making a profit.

    Disclosure: I'm a City CarShare employee.

  • Jay

    I think carsharing is a great development on many levels, but I want to express some skepticism about blanket claims that it reduces traffic.

    In most parts of the country, there should be little doubt that it would reduce total auto travel. There are, however, reasons to suspect it could actually result in particularly dense places like NYC where current car ownership rates are low.

    By making cars more accessible to a population of drivers with limited access, you could expect an increase in driving trips.

    There are complications, of course. By improving parking availability and managing it better, there should be less cruising for open on-street parking spaces, which would have some reducing effect on traffic. And some people who have cars may give them up, making them likely to make fewer trips by car.

    How these various factors would balance out is far from clear. The benefits from the reduced storage requirements alone make it look like a good idea, even in these situations. But it is worth considering that the results may not necessarily be a net reduction in VMT.

  • Allan

    I think the idea is that with "car sharing" you don't own a car at all whereas with "car rental" you are renting a car because you're in another city or something

  • Bob Davis

    With "true" car-sharing, I presume an individual owns the car and the other users help pay for the upkeep, insurance, registration, etc. Is is possible for two or three unrelated people (or families) to own a car as "tenants in common"? The advantage of Zipcar (it would appear) is that the cars are owned by a company, so that if one car gets wrecked or has a catastrophic engine failure, the company supplies another one without all the hassle of buying another car or waiting for extensive repairs.
    In either case, it means that one does not have a car in the driveway, ready at a moment's notice, and it imposes a certain amount of "discipline" upon one's local travels.

  • Brian

    The City of Hoboken has created a "citywide car sharing program" called "Corner Cars" (public-private partnership wit Connect by Hertz). The big deal is that the cars are actually parked on-street in spaces reserved by the city, which significantly increases visibility and ease of use. Also, the cars are parked at corners (hence, "corner cars") and spread throughout the city so that something like 90% of residents are within a 3 minute walk of a car. I don't see any reason (other than political will) why NYC couldn't do something similar, at least in less autocentric parts of the city. 

  • Mike

    I love the idea of Zipcar, but I've only used it once in the 4 years, maybe longer, that I've been a member. That was an expensive, stressful day trip, trying to get the car back on time.

    I'm wondering what types of trips people find it useful for. If I need a car to go out of town, I rent. If I need one to go somewhere in the city, which is rare, I call a car service or hail one on the street. No parking hassles or drinking and driving issues.

    I first signed up for the service after I had to take the LIRR and then a cab to a Sunday night wake for which I could only stay for 50 minutes due to the train schedule. But I haven't had another situation like that since.

  • taomom

    Joining City Carshare in San Francisco gave our family the confidence to downsize one car. While we rely on bikes and transit to really replace the miles, knowing we could use a car if we really needed to was helpful. It's just enough of a cost and just enough of a pain that we only use it twice a year.

    So I would say that in our case, having City Carshare as a lightly-used back up does reduce our contribution to city congestion. (It also saves us $7000 annually and means we have room in our garage for our seven bicycles.)

  • Emily Litella

    Its just self service car rental with the cars based in enough locations to be close enough to many points of ORIGIN.  But unlike bike share, you have to return your Zipcar to the point of origin.  Zipcar is good for specific purposes, but anyone serious about giving up a car can easily do it and use existing car and van sharing services; they are called TAXIS and MAN WITH VAN.  Walk/bike/bus - cabs for when you are sick or have a ton of stuff.  Everything else is wasteful overconsumption with or without greenwash. If your city needs rail it is probably unsustainable large. For more go to newworldeconomics.com

  • Judy

    We have car sharing in San Francisco. Check out relay Rides at RelayRides.com.

  • ZA

    You want to hear someone who doesn't get it? http://www.npr.org/2011/03/03/134222010/William-Clay-Ford-Jr

    1 person per car on 'free' roads just doesn't scale to 6 billion+ people for most of their journeys. Not if you also expect the fuel source to be cheap, and have a viable planet.

    CarSharing is one business model among many that has to step into the breach, and maybe make some good money at it too!

  • http://scorcher.org/ Jym Dyer

    =v= Car-sharing is just car-rental with a different business model. Plus the word "share" to appeal to our better natures.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/njudah Greg

    you don't need to use a fancy for profit service to share the use of a car. When I still had a car and was driving between LA and SF a lot, I always advertised on Craigslist for people to share the ride. With a few common sense things to avoid getting stabbed, I found that not only did it save me money, it also made the drive a little nicer.

    Likewise, there's the informal carpooling/sharing that happens at many locations in the Bay Area where people, often strangers will fill a car up with folks all going in the same general area (downtown SF, etc) and that helps too.

    Zipcar et all are nice, but they're not the only way to share the use/expense of a car when you can't take a bus or a train.

  • http://ridinginriverside.blogspot.com Justin N

    Hey New Yorkers, I can see that you're all very proud of your taxi and car hire services. Understand that these services do not exist universally in all cities. However, even out here in suburban hell, the local university has ZipCar. Also, I think that $9/hr is cheaper than whatever you pay for a taxi.

  • http://www.movingtruckrental.com/ movingtruckrental

    Car sharing allows users to evaluate the full cost of each car trip, which encourages them to decide what the most appropriate mode choice is for a specific trip. I love car sharing!!

  • http://www.movingtruckrental.net/ hezelcrowns

    What are the pros and cons of using a truck rental vs. using a professional moving company?

  • LightSpeed

    Light speed Transport Auto Movers is an auto transport company that handles all types of auto transportation requirements for personal vehicles, dealerships, rental companies, and more. Our goal is to provide nationwide on-time vehicle shipping with a high level of customer service