Car share news
Car sharing is fractional use or "time sharing" use of cars. "Sharing" is a form of collaborative consumption, facilitated mostly by for profit firms, although some cities like San Francisco and Montreal have nonprofit car share programs.
A number of elements make it different from traditional car rental. Cars are distributed in various locations in a community and drivers access the cars through telecommunications systems, smart cards, and/or mobile phones, not through an office-based check out and return process.
1. Festival promotion. Last year Enterprise Car Share (probably by overbidding) took over the car sharing contract to put car share vehicles on Metro station sites. A few weeks ago, not particularly aggressively, a street team was out at the Takoma Metro Station promoting the service.
It seems like the companies haven't been as visible in street team and festival promotions, but maybe I am not getting out as much.
2. Zipcar now has 1 million members, which is a lot, although I don't know if that number includes European and Canadian affiliates, or just the US. It's still a big deal.
In the article over the weekend "about Ford" I mentioned the rise in car share use and decline in automobile purchases by millennials, although the Financlal Times just ran an article ("Millennial Americans still aspire to be behind wheel of their own car") based on a survey which found that millennials have the same interest in buying cars as other groups.
Regardless, there is still a marked shift at least in some segments as more households than before choose to not buy a car in favor of car use through car share and other means. This segment will continue to grow, although it is likely to plateau. Before advances in telecommunications and software systems it wasn't possible to serve such a market economically and profitably.
Zipcar is rolling out "one-way" car share, but compared to Car2Go it's clunky, you can't put the car anywhere in a "home zone." You can leave it only in a very limited number of places.
A few months ago, the company finalized negotiations with DC and Arlington so that car trips can start in one jurisdiction and end in the other. This is great for people in DC traveling to National Airport, although the car has to be dropped off in Crystal City, which is some distance away.
4. The upscale BMW Reach Now service, which originally launched in San Francisco but shut down later, relaunched in Seattle ("BMW’s ReachNow car-sharing service expands service area and adds more vehicles in Seattle," GeekWire) and is expanding to Portland next week ("BMW's Car-Sharing Service Is About to Hit an Important Milestone," Fortune Magazine).
They've shifted to a price per minute model, with various ceiling rates at 3 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours, and compared to the other services, charge less when the car is parked but still held by the user. Still, the price to the user is much higher than competitive services.
Airport access is a plus. Unlike most other car sharing services (except Car2Go in Montreal), they have an agreement with the Seattle Airport to have cars parked there.
By adding Minis to the mix, they are able to lower prices, and according to Geekwire, they intend to add services and "quirks" to the program to expand its appeal:
Banfield told GeekWire ... that the vision for BMW is much more than just the free-floating car-sharing program. There are plans to launch a number of other services, including a concierge option where BMW brings you a vehicle, instead of you having to find one yourself; an Uber and Lyft competitor that will allow people to earn revenue by driving other users around in ReachNow cars; a way for people to drop off ReachNow vehicles at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before boarding a flight, or to pick one up after they get off the plane; or a way for BMW owners to lease their own cars within the ReachNow network.5. GM's Maven car sharing service is expanding from its test markets to DC, Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore . GM, which invested in Lyft, is already leasing cars to Lyft drivers in Chicago as part of the program. In Chicago, they are testing a delivery option, although that seems like an unnecessary expense since drivers are unlikely to be willing to pay the true cost. Remember that the secret to the supermarket is making the customer pick and deliver the order. Taking on such an expense is costly.
Considering that the GM service entered the market a couple months ago ("GM’s car-sharing service hits the gas in the District," Washington Business Journal) and I had no idea, clearly they need to do some marketing, sponsor festivals, etc.
6. Peugeot and Los Angeles. Reuters reports that Peugeot, the French car company, will be launching an electric car sharing service in Los Angeles. They will be working with Bolloré, the company that runs the Auto'Lib program in Paris and the BlueIndy program in Indianapolis, although it uses a car manufactured by Pininfarina, an Italian company. If they switch to a Peugeot manufactured car, it could be a good way to rebuild awareness of the Peugeot brand in the US, just as Car2Go has increased the visibility of the SmartCar in urban markets.
Note that Car2Go uses electric cars in some markets, including San Diego.
Indy starts BlueIndy, all-electric 'car share' program," Indianapolis Star). The program isn't particularly successful ("BlueIndy electric car-sharing: after 9 months, how's it doing?," Green Car Reports)--2,000 members each taking about 1.5 trips per month. It does have access to the city's airport, which is a plus.
I'm sure there are various studies about what are successful conditions for car share just as there is for bike share ("The problem when you define every outcome as a success, you don't learn, and therefore failure is more likely: bike share in Seattle and Los Angeles as examples"). Frankly, the general characteristics are likely the same.
The challenge for companies is to make choices based on objective criteria for success, rather than expressed interest on the part of cities looking to be innovative ("City encourages less parking, more mass transit and car sharing," Star). Although some of this is the process of learning ("Twin Cities car2go shrinks service area," Minnesota Daily; "Car2Go expands to cover all of Seattle," Seattle Times) and targeting service to the places it works best.
This shouldn't be a surprise because Indianapolis lacks the right set of urban design and mobility characteristics which support the adoption of a sustainable mobility-centric lifestyle. For example, the city has minimal transit infrastructure and transit isn't used much by "choice riders." From the Indianapolis Star:
Historically, the Circle City been one of the most drive-centric in the nation. The U.S. Census Bureau's most recent survey of commuters found that just 1 percent of Indianapolis residents take public transportation to work, compared to 11.5 percent in Chicago, 3.8 percent in Cleveland and 2.4 percent in Louisville.Note that density and proximity between residential areas and activity centers and other prime destinations shape the take up of sustainable mobility more than zoning regulations. (But the right zoning regulations help when you're working with a "Walking City" and "Transit City" urban form. See "Transportation and Urban Form" by Peter Muller.)
The city also ranks near the bottom in the number of people who bike or walk to their jobs.
The new code allows developers of multi-family homes to reduce the number of required parking spaces by 30 percent if they build within 1/4 mile of a sheltered bus stop or main mass transit corridor. If they are 1/4 to 1/2 mile away, they can reduce the number of parking spaces by 10 percent.
Builders also get to reduce parking spaces if they replace them with bike racks, carpool parking or electric car charging stations.
8. Metropolitan area deployment challenges: multiple jurisdictions. WRT Peugeot and "Los Angeles," another challenge, like with bike share there, is that there are multiple cities and entities. Parts of Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County cities like Pasadena and Santa Monica have the right antecedents, other parts don't, as Car2Go discovered in Minneapolis.
But having to negotiate separate agreements for each city as well as cross-jurisdictional privileges (like with DC and Arlington County and Car2Go) is difficult and expensive and will make it harder for car sharing to expand in areas with multiple jurisdictions.
This is an issue with airport access too. Usually, airports are separately run from cities or counties and may be more or less willing to negotiate complementary agreements.
9. A focus on fee, tax, and franchise revenues from car shares comes out of the pocket of city residents, while car owners get a free pass. There is some question about the deployment and expansion of the BlueIndy program, and the city is looking for franchise fees which haven't been charged up to now ("City rethinking spots for BlueIndy stations" and "Hospital rail has franchise deal, why not BlueIndy?," Star).
With regard to the quest for franchise fees, as I have written about this in the past (Another example of DC's failures in transportation planning: carsharing"), it is a challenge for cities to look at this as a question of supporting innovation and transportation demand management versus a revenue venture.
I will admit when I first considered car sharing, back in 2003, I thought that it was important to charge commercial proprietors of such services for their use of the public space to conduct business.
But late in 2005, I changed my tune ("High Cost of Free* Parking Revisited and Car Sharing in DC"), recognizing two things. First, that car-using residents who are car share members shouldn't have to pay significantly more for using street space when compared to car-owning residents, regardless of who owns the service.
Second, the point of car sharing is to reduce the total number of cars attempting to park in the public space--it's a form of demand management, since research shows that 10-30 households use each car share vehicle, and they own fewer cars compared to similar households that aren't members of car share.The more fees that are paid, the more it cost to use the service for the end user.
The end users are residents of the city. Why should they pay more for a car trip compared to a resident who owns a car. DePaul University just did a study on this, which I wrote about last month ("Car share users are getting abused by the cities that ostensibly support car sharing as a form of sustainable mobility").
Because communities are dominated by car owners who don't care much about fairness when it comes to payments by non-car owning residents, "members" of car sharing services pay cities much more money per trip than do car owners.
10. Campus car sharing impact study. Zipcar funded a study of the impact of car sharing on college campuses ("Car sharing on campuses improves quality of life, takes cars off the road," Phys.org). From the article:
The findings were promising:
• The availability of car sharing allowed 30 percent of students who lived on campus to leave their personal cars at home.Campus car sharing has the same transportation demand management impact as in cities, such as in Hoboken ("Hoboken, N.J., Sets Up Low-Cost Car-Sharing Program," New York Times) where they found a significant reduction in demand for residential parking permits after the program was launched, which should be expected.
• Forty-two percent of Zipcar users on campuses said that they are less likely to buy a car in the next few years.
• Thirty percent said they would have bought a car were it not for car sharing.
As Jane Jacobs said when she was asked "why aren't there enough roads? (or parking lots)," she countered "you're asking the wrong question; the right question is 'why are there so many cars?'"
As a TDM measure, car sharing should be encouraged, and users shouldn't be taxed and charged disproportionately compared to car owners.
11. Car sharing and transportation equity. A few years ago, the DC Housing Authority set up an arrangement with Zipcar, to serve their usually lower income residents, ("Zipcar Brings Car Sharing to DC Housing Authority," press release) but we haven't heard much about the program since although the program still operates. It's not clear if other public housing authorities have developed similar relationships.
The Chicago Reporter ran an article ("Pilot program aims to bring car sharing to low income neighborhoods") about an initiative in Chicago that aims to serve low income neighborhoods, using the peer-to-peer Getaround car sharing program. In that program, rather than buying and maintaining a fleet of vehicles, an IT and telecommunications platform and system links individual users and independent car owners (comparable to ride hailing services).
12. Nonprofit car sharing. The problem with nonprofit car sharing is that the services are geographically bound and lightly capitalized.
Limited service areas make them less useful to people as they travel (for example I've used Zipcar or Car2Go in Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco, as well as in DC).
But from a business model standpoint, it means the service is smaller, costs more to operate, and has reduced access to capital. Insurance is usually more expensive too. For members, it often costs more to join and use too, compared to the for profit services.
Most importantly, when it comes time to replace cars, nonprofits don't usually have the money to do it. Nonprofits in Philadelphia and Chicago sold themselves to for profits when they couldn't maintain the capital spending for their fleet.
Nonetheless, nonprofit car sharing programs in San Francisco, Boulder, Montreal and elsewhere continue to operate in the face of competition from for profit firms.
Governing Magazine reported on a nonprofit car share program in Buffalo ("A Zipcar that people can afford") which faces these issues.
Just as there are business cooperatives or "buying groups" that support independent retailers such as hardware or supermarket co-ops, probably the nonprofit car sharing organizations need to organize a similar arrangement to negotiate less costly relationships for purchasing cars and insurance and better access to capital (such as loans from the National Co-operative Bank).