Thursday, October 18, 2018

Comparison of the Cost of Car Ownership with Car2Go and Zipcar

Arlington,Virginia, one of the most progressive cities in terms of promoting carsharing options as part of their TDM (Transportation Demand Management) program, last year released a very useful analysis comparing the cost of car ownership with one way (Car2Go) and round trip (Zipcar) carsharing at the rates current in 2017,

The comparison (PDF) not only used cost of a new car, which most comparison use, but additional scenarios of 5 year and 13 year old used vehicles.  The study compared driving

  • 1,000 miles annually (19 miles per week)
  • 3,000 miles annually (38.5 miles per week) 
  • 6,000 miles annually (115 miles per week)

Comparisons were made for both one-way and round trip services.  Possible costs of parking a private car were not included in the cost of ownership.

The results won't surprise those familiar with carsharing economics:
  • 1,000 miles per year - All car-share options are less expensive than even owning a new car
  • 3,000 miles per year - Car-sharing is equal or less expensive than most car-ownership scenarios
  • 6,000 miles over year - Car-share is less expensive than owning a new car but not 5 and 13 year old used cars
Of course, the consumer decision to own a vehicle is more complicated than simply annual VMT - convenience perhaps being the biggest factor in many peoples' minds.   The city's summary of the report says it this way:
  • Under 2,000 VMT annually, car-share appears the most economically efficient on a household level.
  • Over 6,000 VMT annually, car ownership is, in almost all cases, economically more efficient than car-share.
  • Car-share services are best used as regular first-last-mile connectors and for infrequent trip taking.
  • Arlington residents owning more than one vehicle or considering buying their first vehicle are most likely to realize considerable savings by using car-share.
The county's main carsharing web page describes the partnerships with carsharing companies and has links to additional details of the study, including the cost assumptions that were used in the comparisons.

The county's TDM website, CommuterPage describes carsharing options like this,

Friday, April 06, 2018

Carsharing Portland Timeline




This is a short chronology of CarSharing Portland and the start of carsharing in the US, based on announcements in CSP member newsletters and other documents.


Pre 1996
1985 - Russell Martin works for the Short Term Auto Rental (STAR) project, an UMTA funded
demonstration program at Park Merced housing complex in San Francisco
1994 - Benoit Robert starts nonprofit carshare in Quebec City which became CommunAuto in
1995, a for profit company based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Rain Magazine (Eugene) publishes extended interview with Carsten Petersen and
Markus Petersen, founders of StattAuto Berlin; another article describes the
formation of the Eugene Carshare Cooperative (which apparently only had 1 old
VW Beetle);  these articles had significant influence on Dave Brook.
Various articles appear in US newspapers about carsharing in Europe during the decade.


1996
Richard Katzev arranges for trip to US by Conrad Wagner of Switzerland
December – Proposal to DEQ by BTA, Research Into Action and Scott Engineering:
        Feasibility and Business Planning for Car Sharing/Mobility Services in Portland, Oregon
       
1997
Conrad Wagner, Switzerland speaks at public meetings in Portland
Cooperative Auto Network (coop) launched in Vancouver, BC, Canada
April – Research Into Action, Scott Engineering and Rex Burkholder submit
        Focus Group Summary Report Car Sharing in Portland, Oregon
July – Research Into Action, Scott Engineering and Rex Burkholder submit 2 reports to COP/DEQ:
        Market Feasibility Study: Car Sharing in Portland, Oregon
        Business Planning Study: Car Sharing in Portland, Oregon
August - CSP submits proposal to DEQ for Implementation and Evaluation of a Pilot Car
Sharing/Mobility Service in Portland, Oregon
September – CSP Business Plan to Oregon DEQ regarding Car Share Pilot Project
        First brainstorming of slogans from Hucksters
December - DEQ issues RFP for Carsharing/Mobility Service; 2 week response deadline
Hiring Russell Martin
Other activities during the year: Securing insurance via VPSI, from Dreyfuss Ney


1998
January - Membership recruitment events; TV coverage
February 28, 1998 official launch of CarSharing Portland Inc.
16 members, 2 Dodge Neons,
Rates: $1.50 per hour + 30¢ per mile; $500 security deposit;
No hourly fee from midnight to 6 am (only mileage charges)
June – Buckman Heights partnership
Conrad Wagner speaks in Portland again
Vehicle reservations shifted to telephone answering service
July – Toyota Tacoma pickup truck added to Buckman Heights location
(forced relocation of lockboxes outside of the cars)
August – Rate adjustment: $1.50 ;per hour + 40¢ per mile (first 40 miles, then 15¢ per mile)
First downtown location – PSU, SW 3rd & Harrison
October – 79 members; 6 vehicles at 5 locations
November - 88 members
Overnight (no hourly fee) extended 11 pm to 7 am
December – Security deposit lowered to $250
Daily rate introduced: $45/day (including gas)


1999
January – shorter Trip Ticket format introduced; customer feedback questions removed
$10 per month membership fee introduced
100 members
February – Dr. Richard Katzev delivers interim report on CSP activity
Status Report of Carsharing Portland (CSP): The First Nine Months
Carsharing exempted from Multnomah County Rental Car Tax
March – CARS phone reservation system introduced; originally developed by Ron Wilder,
Wilder Engineering, Campbell, Calif. for flying clubs to schedule plane rental
April – Fleet gas cards introduced
First yellow Hucksters marketing brochures
July – Richard Katzev presents first year evaluation study showing significant reductions in member car ownership, car usage
September – 200 members
First Dodge Neons replaced
October – Hired car cleaner
Five trips in the same car in one day - a new record


2000
January – Honda Insight added to fleet; first hybrid in carsharing fleet (Pearl District location)
February – first 2 cars in Pearl District; partnership with Hoyt Street Properties
March – PSU student evaluation: Carsharing: The Missing Link
First Saturn cars added to the fleet
17 locations, 18 vehicles
New brochures released
April – Flexcar, Seattle, and Zipcar, Boston, launched
July – Single phone number for office and CARS reservations instituted 872-9882
300 members
October – Dodge Caravan, first minivan added to the fleet


2001
January – rate increase from $1.50 to $2.00 per hour; distance same at 40¢/mile
Daily Rate Camp ended; members encouraged to use Enterprise 15% discount
Vehicle “stolen” and recovered 2 weeks later; was actually “misplaced” by a member
March – 500 members
Original Toyota Tacoma pickup replaced with Mazda B2500
July – first announcement to members about future Flexcar merger
August – Amtrak Cascades 10% discount
September - Maren announces her departure

October – CSP rebranded as Flexcar; first Honda Civics introduced

Scenes from the 20th Anniversary of Carsharing in the US Party

Many of the founders and supporters of the first commercial carsharing company in the US - CarSharing Portland Inc. - celebrated the 20th anniversary of its launch at the Lucky Lab Brewpub on
April 2nd.  Carsharing has come a long way since then.

I'll be posting a timeline of CarSharing Portland (CSP) soon and am planning a series of posts describing the founding and activities of CSP.  To get notified when they appear, subscribe to this blog (link in the righthand column).

Nina DeConcini, Oregon DEQ tells a story about getting carsharing through the state bureaucracy. Others in the picture include (from left: Russell Martin, first General Manager, Jerry Zelada taking pictures, Maren Souders, Outreach and Customer Service, Dave Brook, Founder of CSP; Rex Burkholder, then with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and co-author of the feasibility study about carsharing; Nina DeConcini, then (and now) with Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality; Steven Scott, MetaResource Group, a co author of a bausiness planning study; Chris Hagerbaumer, Oregon Environmental Council; Francie Royce, then with the Portland Dept. of Transporation.


Rex Burkholder and Dave Brook

Dave, Maren Souders and Russell Martin - the CarSharing Portland crew.

Maren, Dave & Russell.


Nina DeConcini tells another story.  Steven Scott, Francie Royce & Ed Mcnamera are also visible

Long time carshare advocate, Steve Gutmann, shows one of the signs from the original carsharing office.

Todd Boulanger, then with the City of Vancouver, Washington's transportation department, shows two no parking signs from the first on-street parking space reserved for carsharing vehicles.
Not able to attend the party but mentioned by many was Dr. Richard Katzev, Reed College psychology professor at the time, who inspired us and conducted the first independing evaluation documenting the benefits of carsharing to US cities.

Russell, Maren, Dave 

Dave getting nostalgic after a beer at the Lucky Lab brewpub.

And a final photo of one key person from the early days of carsharing (who wasn't located before the meeting) - Clive Bullian, whose started out cleaning cars and quickly became an invaluable all around fleet person.  His easy going attitude boosted everyone's spirits and got the job done.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of CarSharing Portland


March 28, 1998 was the launch date of Carsharing Portland, the first commercial carsharing company in the United States.  Although the 2 original Dodge Neons did not get donated to the Smithsonian

Come celebrate the launch of CarSharing Portland on April 2, from 5 to 7 pm at one of our original member appreciation and recruitment venues - the Lucky Lab Brewpub, 915 SE Hawthorne.  I'm digging out some historic documents and artifacts from the early days of carsharing to display at the event.
If you have some photos, artifacts or memories of the early days of CSP or Flexcar send them to me and I'll post them here.  And if you're in Portland on April 2, come to a little party at one of our original member appreciation and recruitment venues - the Lucky Lab Brewpub, 915 SE Hawthorne, between 5 - 7 pm.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Some Resources About Reserved On-Street Parking for Carsharing

Parking is a hot button issue in cities.  
Cities have been providing free (and underpriced) on-street parking since the advent of the automobile, and, no surprise, people like FREE, even when it's a scarce resource and they have to cruise for it!  

Making it even harder, is the perception that politicians are "taking away" public parking and "giving" (or even selling) it to private carshare companies, especially when the parking space is in front of your home or business — even though the private company is serving the residents of the area!  

Consequently, it can be hard to get a city to designate on-street parking for carsharing. (In this posting I'm talking about reserved on-street parking for "round trip" carsharing services.  One-way/free floating carshaing is a related but different issue.)  The way these policies are implemented in each city depends on specific verbiage in the city's legal code framework.  

Here are some resources:

On-Street Parking Spaces for Shared Cars, 
Access Magazine, University of California, 2010
Good general overview of reserved on-street parking for carsharing.

Best practices in CS parking: Carsharing and Public Parking Policies: Assessing Benefits, Costs, and Best Practices in North America
Susan A. Shaheen, Ph.D. et al., Mineta Transportation Institute, March 2010
This paper outlines 3 strategies a city might take: 
 - Support CS with "free" parking because it's a public good (this is often done in the "pilot" stage)
 - Charge either the market price for reserved parking spaces or charge the "lost revenue from parking meters" (this is the most common)
 - Same as above but build in some sort of revenue-sharing mechanism when the operator meets some threshold.

Three Ways Cities Are Using On-Street Parking Pilots to Expand Carsharing
Shared Use Mobility Center, 2015
Basically, a brief summary of how San Francisco and Seattle are handling the allocation on-street parking in their cities. (The 3rd city, Boston, was in the RFP stage at the time the article was written.)

Car Sharing at a Mile High
International Parking Institute, November 2013
A detailed discussion of how Denver is implementing carsharing parking.

Build Your Own Mobility Hub: 7 Lessons for Cities from Bremen, Germany
By Tim Frisbie, Shared Use Mobility Center, June 16, 2017
The "Mobility Hub" concept places carsharing vehicles at/near other transit services, such as bikesharing, subway stations and major bus interchanges.  This describes the efforts by the City of Bremen, Germany in integrating carsharing in the overall transportation network of the city.

Carsharing: Establishing its Role in the Parking Demand Management Toolbox
Masters thesis submitted by Gina Filosa, Tufts University, 2006
A detailed discussion of where carsharing fits into the overall parking management strategy.

Hope these are useful.  Let me know if there are other articles or website you've found useful.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Some thoughts about autonomous vehicles and the future of carsharing

Earlier this month I was a speaker at the Connected & Autonomous Vehicles Conference, part of the larger Internet of Things World Conference in Santa Clara, California, May 17, 2017.  I was on a panel discussion introducing shared mobility with Steve Messino, CEO of MuvMe, a carsharing/on demand car rental platform provider.  

I'm skeptical about how fast the conversion to autonomous vehicles is going to happen, so I was interested to hear from a number of other speakers in the autonomous vehicle industry saying the same thing at other sessions.  There are all sorts of issues to be sorted out - highway regulations and insurance are two big ones and in the US.  And these issues will have be figured out on both the national and state by state levels, and probably some cities will want to regulate them, as well.  

What did you learn about autonomous cars at the conference?

I've been skeptical about soon autononmous cars are going to become widespread.  I just saw one this morning saying it would be, "within 5 years".  Well, okay, maybe on certain highways, but not widespread.  It's not because of technology or availability of insurance, but because there are so many regulatory challenges to figure out, at least in North America — the federal government and each state have to implement laws, insurance commissioners in each state have to go through a process.  I don't see it happening on a widescale basis for at least 10 years.

Something that really surprised me, as much as I hate to admit it, is the awareness of carsharing at the conference was pretty low.  We are still more niche to the general public than we realize.  But everyone seems to know about Uber and Lyft and their ultimate plans to switch to autonomous cars.  It wasn't until after the conference I read this really wonderful quote from Gregory DucongĂ©, CEO of Vulog that would have helped people at the conference understand carsharing, "It's Uber without the driver, and it's much cheaper."

There was one whole session devoted to insuring self driving cars which I found very interesting because it reminded me of my own experiences in the early days of carsharing.   I don't see insurance as the challenge some of the speakers did.  Carsharing pioneers in every country face the challenge of finding an insurance company to provide coverage and AV pioneers will are facing the same thing.  But I think the experience of peer to peer carshare companies suggests that it might actually be easier for autonomous vehicle companies to get insurance because the scale of AVs is so much greater than a little carshare start up, and scale is what insurance companies are looking for to provide a cushion against big claims. It wouldn't surprise me if AV insurance had a pay-by-mile (or kilometer) component, as well!  

In my talk, I reminded everyone that there's no difference between autonomous Uber and autonomous Zipcar - both will provide cars that come to your front door when you request them.  Uber and Lyft clearly have the advantage of a huge member based, but I wonder if Zipcar may have an easier time integrating self driving cars into their business model, since it's built on the idea of owning the fleet, whereas the ride-hailing companies have built their business model on using other peoples' cars.  The challenge for Uber to make the switch is big but hardly insurmountable if you have lots of cash!)

Perhaps the most fundamental insight about the future of autonomous vehicles didn't come from the conference at all but from an article several months ago in Atlantic Magazine's excellent CityLab website.  It said that AVs could lead to either a transportation "heaven" (if the AVs were shared) or "hell" (if privately owned) due to increased congestion and VMT.

Where is carsharing headed?

I've always been reluctant to make predictions beyond 5 years out.  There are so many uncertainties about technology and government policies that could take the industry in a radically different direction. Such changes might be a breakthrough in battery technology for electric vehicles or even the election of a new US President!  So, some things I see likely to happen in the next 5 years include: 
  • The distinction between car rental and carsharing will be blurred even more. Car rental companies on every continent are already offering classic carsharing services - EuropCar, Orix, Enterprise, to name a few.  And car rental companies are increasingly installing telematics in vehicles to enable on-demand rental to provide greater convenience to their customers, allowing them to bypass the checkout counter.  This would allow car rental companies to set up remote unattended lots in less dense areas to facilitate neighborhood rentals.  Just add insurance and refueling and you have carsharing.
  • Car manufacturers — OEMs will continue to expand their offerings in the shared mobility space.  Even without millennials, I think the urban car sales market is already shrinking and shared mobility options will keep growing. These offerings may take the form of traditional carsharing services (like Maven), P2P carsharing (like Tesla's announced model 3 sharing), fractional leasing options (such as offered by Upshift), as well as many experiments with a variety of app-based integrated Mobility as a Service projects (Moovel, Ford, etc.)
  • Technology — I expect OEMs will continue to keep their "connected car" systems proprietary, allowing access only for selected providers, such as their in-house carsharing or fleet leasing companies.  I expect at least one car manufacturer will finally produce a special vehicle model with special options for carsharing fleets, such as allowing the telematics to automatically adjust seats and mirrors to each member's preference.  (At one point Daimler made one model of the Smart for Car2Go with automatic setting of the radio to the last station the member listened to.)
  • New Entrants — OEMs won't be only ones getting into shared mobility.  We've recently seen automobile clubs offering in the one-way services (Evo in Vancouver, Gig in Oakland) and it seems possible that insurance companies and others in the transportation sector may start providing mobility services, such as last mile services to trains.
  • One-way carsharing systems will become the dominant player, serving both round trip and point to point trips. In cities where on-street parking is not too difficult, the same fleet can easily serve both types of trips and it will provide better utilization of the fleet.  In cities with limited on-street parking, companies may do it with separate but overlapping fleets, using some one-way vehicles to satisfy weekend demand.
I'm sure we'll see many other possibilities as the personal transportation sector is in huge ferment right now.

(Note: an earlier version of this interview was published in the May, 2017 edition of the Team Red Global Carsharing Update newsletter.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm Disappointed in You, Car2Go and ReachNow

Please permit this short, but long overdue, rant about what I consider to be a poor decision by one of my favorite carshare companies - Car2Go. (Updated now to direct this rant also at ReachNow, as well.)

It's the "Driver Protection Fee" charged all Car2Go customers in North America.  The "protection" it provides is reducing the insurance deductible from $1,000 to $250, providing a "benefit" to customers whether they want it reduced or not.

The Driver Protection Fee works like this: Your first 90 trips each year have an extra $1 tacked on to the final amount.  After 90 trips the fee goes away until next year.  90 trips is an average of 7 trips per month - 2 trips per week (the kind of customer that any carsharing company would be smart to reward).

But for the rest of us, the vast majority of its customers, it effectively raises the per minute cost.  For example: an 11 minute trip billed at the advertised rate of 41¢ per minute would cost $4.51.  But with the Driver Protection Fee that 41¢ per minute trip actually costs 50¢ per minute.  A 25 minute trip doesn't cost $10.25, it costs $12.50 - 45¢ not 41¢ per minute.

Even worse as far as I'm concerned, on the web site page showing the prices, the Driver Protection Fee isn't even an asterisk next to the rates, but shown on a separate page.

To be fair (thanks to a reminder from Car2Go) ReachNow has something similar - the "Shared Asset Fee".  According to their FAQ the $1 per trip Shared Asset Fee is to cover cleaning of vehicles - something we expect to happen anyway.  At least with Car2Go you get the insurance deductible lowered.  It doesn't go away after even 90 trips as with Car2Go.  Worse, the ReachNow Shared Asset fee is levied only in Seattle and Portland but not Brooklyn.  (Seems hard to believe we're messier than Brooklyn-ites!)

Look, if you want to charge me 50¢ per minute, fine, please do.  I can tell you that 5¢ per minute isn't going to change my decision to use Car2Go if it's a trip I want to take and there's a vehicle close by.  And if you want to give me a discount after my 90th trip, I'll take it.

One of the fundamental principles I tell start ups I'm working with is to keep pricing simple and transparent.  This avoids confusion about what a trip is going to cost and sends a message to customers that your company is being fair and open with them.  Please Car2Go and ReachNow, you can do better.