Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How does Flexible Carsharing Change Mobility & Car Ownership?

The two leading flexible carsharing (one way/on demand) providers in Europe, DriveNow and Car@Go, have made a useful contribution to understanding the effects on members' transportation patterns with the release of a summary of a Joint Mobility Study By DriveNow and Car2Go.

The companies surveyed 2,881 members in Europe, all of whom had been members for at least 3 months and had used a vehicle in the past 30 days.  There was a fairly even distribution of ages from 18-50 and somewhat lower representation above that.  Over 2/3rd of those responding to the survey were male and about the same percentage had no children in the household (the report makes no statement whether the demographics are representative of the membership of the organizations).

Here's how members said they used vehicles:

Since the earliest days of Autolib' in Paris, there has been a concern that flexible carsharing would take passengers from public transport, and contribute to traffic on city streets.  Although the report indicates that carsharing members continue to use public transport and bicycling, there were some situations where users did subsitute flexible carsharing for a transit trips - when the transit trip would have been long or required several changes (echoing a finding from the early studies of City Carshare by Robert Cervero).   The main reason members gave for using flexible carsharing were when it was "the best and quickest way to reach my destination" (80%).  In addition to improved convenience over a transit trip, members used flexible carsharing if they believed the trip was less expensive than a taxi (62%) or if cycling was not convenient (43%).

Another concern about flexible carsharing has been that it might not have the same effect of motivating people to reduce the number of cars they own (and hence the temptation to use those cars) as traditional round-trip carsharing.  In the survey, 37% of members reported giving up a vehicle - of which more than 3/4s gave up their primary vehicle.  That's impressive!
Cars given up by flexible carsharing service members by year

What members said they liked about flexible carsharing were:
  • I have the option to use a car spontaneously, if required (54%)
  • The majority of my destinations are also accessible via other types of transport (53%)
  • The upkeep of my own car was too expensive for me (45%)
  • I hardly used my own car (42%)
  • My life situation has changed (40%)
Regarding the growth of flexible carsharing, members indicated they would use it more, "If the cars were more reliably available in my area when I need one" (74%; which just about every user of flexible carsharing can testify is an occasional problem) and, "If I could use the cars for longer at a reasonable price, e.g. for weekend trips" (43%; an attraction of car ownership, as well as lower-priced traditional round trip carsharing).

Not too surprisingly, the report concludes that since the benefits of flexible carsharing are real, "upscaling the services would increase the beneficial effects" for cities.  I agree.

Industry report or not, I compliment both companies for providing a snapshot of their members.

(Sorry readers, I can't locate a link to the full report and charts online.  Here's the press release in German.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Another update to the classic urban mobility options graphic

My recent post showing updates on a classic graphic of transportation modes based on flexibility-distance received a lot of interest.  I recently came across another variation on this chart from Vincent Pilloy of the Paris-based transportation consultancy Innov360.

Unlike the other conceptualizations Pilloy's conceptualization includes walking and car pooling - useful additions to the chart, I think.  However, I'm not sure why P2P carsharing would be more useful for longer distance carsharing trips.

It was part of a blog post describing the various types of carsharing - round trip, one way station-based, free floating, etc.  Nicely done.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

City Mobility Scores and Carsharing

The success of carsharing clearly isn't just about how good the operator of the service is, it's also based on the overall balance and richness of the transportation environment of the city (and how the operator designs their service to fit into that environment.  Figuring out some way to "rate" cities on mobility seems like a key to greater understanding for policy makers, as well as a way for the carsharing operator to understand the city they're serving better.

This is interesting and useful attempt to define a set of criteria and develop ratings for 84 world cities in this full report The Future of Urban Mobility (PDF) report by Arthur D. Little for UITP organization.

The author's, François-Joseph Van Audenhove, Laurent Dauby. Oleksii Korniichuk, Jérôme Pourbaix
have divided the mobility factors into Maturity and Performance categores, and include both carsharing and bike sharing in the Maturity ratings.  (I wonder if they'd include Uber if they'd been writing the report in 2015?)  These factors were weighted and the index score calculated.

Of course one can quibble.  I would have substituted "smart PHONE penetration for "smart card penetration" and, ideally, some sort of land use rating to describe the proximity of neighborhood services that enable residents to not make trips at all.

While developing a index is can be useful, much can get lost in the process.  I noticed that Lost Angeles scored slightly better than Portland (my home town) but it's hard for me to imagine that LA really has a "better" urban transport system?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 TRB Carsharing & New Mobility Sessions

January is TRB month when transportation researchers and practicioners in all fields  descend on Washington, DC. The AP020 Share Use Mobility committee Below is a list of committee activities for the upcoming 2015 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting (January 11-15, 2015) to be held in Washington, D.C.  Although I won't be attending, if you want to get an intensive dose of  wht's happening in the field, this is the place to be.

As in previous years there are a number of excellent papers scheduled to be presented, giving you a chance to hear the latest and interact with researchers. In addition the AP020 subcommittee and Ridesharing subcommittees will be meeting.  And before and after the sessions is a chance to spend time networking, including a reception sponsored by the Shared Use Mobility Center (below).  

Note that this year the carsharing sessions will be held at the Convention Center.
(Please confirm rooms with final program)

Workshop 138: Shared-Use Mobility: What Does the Future Hold? Part 1
Location: Convention Center, 144C

Workshop 184: Shared-Use Mobility: What Does the Future Hold? Part 2
Location: Convention Center, 144C

Session 224: Car and Ride-Share Use and Public Policy
Location: Convention Center, 150A

Session 285: Car and Ride-Share Operations
Location: Convention Center, 150A

Subcommittee Meeting: Parking Management Joint Subcommittee of AP020, ABE50, ABE20, ABE25
Location: Marriott Marquis, Supreme Court
Time: Monday, January 13, 2014, 1:30pm to 3:45pm

Subcommittee Meeting: Emerging Ridesharing Solutions Joint Subcommittee of AP020, AP025, AHB15
Location: Marriott Marquis, L’Enfant Plaza (M3)
Time: Monday, January 13, 2014, 3:45pm to 5:30pm

Committee Meeting: Emerging and Innovative Public Transport and Technologies Committee, AP020
Location: Marriott Marquis, Archives (M4)

Session 574: New Research in Car and Bikesharing
Location: Convention Center, 102B

Poster Session 654: Transit Operations
Location: Convention Center, Hall E

Poster Session 655: Carsharing: Public Policy and Operations
Location: Convention Center, Hall E

Subcommittee Meeting: Shared-Use Vehicle Public Transport Systems, AP020(1)
Location: Marriott Marquis, Mint (M4)
There are a number of additional sessions that mentioned carsharing in their summaries which can be searched in the TRB interactive program.

The Shared Use Mobility Center in Chicago will hosting a 
reception from 4:30pm to 6:30pm on Sunday, January 11, 2015, at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum
 Bar, located just down the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Light food and 
refreshments will be provided. The reception is sponsored by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a new 
public-interest partnership working to connect the growing shared mobility industry with transit 
agencies, cities and communities across the nation.  For more information about the Shared Use 
Mobility Center or call 312-448-6202.

For registration information on attending the annual TRB meeting, please go to: www.trb.org.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Where Does Carsharing Fit in the Scheme of Transportation Modes?

When I was first getting interested in carsharing, way back in 1996, I came across a wonderful graphic that really helped me understand the role of carsharing in transportation.  You've probably seen this graphic in numerous Powerpoints — which modes are best for which types of trips, based on the Distance of the trip and amount of Flexibility (time, destinations) needed during the trip.

I first saw the graphic on Eric Britton's foundational website and e-mail discussion group at World Carshare Consortium, which is still alive and well (as is Eric, who has created more website and discussion groups since then than I can keep track of!)  He told me that the original source, from 20 years earlier, didn't actually call it carsharing but the term "paratransit"(after all the term wasn't coined until 1987 when carsharing as we know it got started, almost simultaneously in Switzerland and Germany).  Somewhere along the line, the word Carsharing got substituted and the chart became history.

 (From Ron Kirby and Kisten Bhat: Para-transit: Neglected options for urban mobility, Urban Institute, 1974)

Well, that graphic was history, until now. But even carsharing evolves and now we have a new flavor - one-way/on-demand carsharing (e.g. Autolib, Car2Go, Enjoy, JoeCar), which has somewhat different trip characteristics.  So I was very pleased to find an updated version of this chart from Marco Viviani of CommunAuto, Montreal, showing the place for One-Way.

Something that Viviani's graphic does very nicely is to convey what those swirly black line arcs in the upper graphics represent - the possible overlap between modes.

One might argue that the One-Way bubble should really be a big elipse that also slightly overlaps with Public Transit, since the most recent evaluations show a slight decrease in transit trips by one-way users.  (But, for what it's worth, I would suggest this should not be a big concern since these are likely trips that would have been difficult to do on transit - either because of time and schedules or because of the number of changes required.)

I suppose one could include Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in the Taxi category, if you really wanted to update it.  The next question will be where autonomous cars belong on the chart?

Hope this is useful.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two nice carsharing promotional videos - from South America

I'm always on the lookout for short, nicely done videos that promote carsharing and tell how it works.  Interestingly, the two most recent one's I've seem come across are from the South America, a huge area with lots of big cities (and a couple of megacities) and a whole lots of cars and traffic jams but, so far, very little carsharing.

The first video is from Joycar in Sao Paulo, a new carshare service placing cars in garages and at companies (joining long-established Zazcar).

The second is in one of my favorite animation styles - the hand drawn cartoon (as popularized by The Story of Stuff).  Who it's from is a bit of mystery (to me, at least).  @mobigo.cl is the only identification (tips welcome - just post a comment below.  Thanks).

If you've got some favorites, animated or not, let me know.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Six Key Decisions For Every Carshare Start Up

As a consultant in the field, I've talked to many entrepreneurs thinking about starting a carsharing company.  Almost always their first question is about technology — the telematic device in the car and the software for reservation/billing/fleet and customer management.  The next question is often about what I think about their choice of vehicles.

While technology and vehicles are important considerations, they are almost never the first things to consider and probably not the most important, make or break, decisions you'll face.  Preparing and delivering the recent webinars in Metavera's Should You Become a Carsharing Operator series got me thinking about what these priorities are.  So I'd like to offer an overview.

First a couple of general comments: many carsharing services have been experiencing 30%+ membership growth rates for a number of years.  The demographic trends indicate that car ownership has peaked in North America and Europe, so I expect these growth rates will likely continue.  Half of the 50 largest cities in the US do not have large-scale carsharing.  And, outside of Europe, Australia and Singapore, the rest of the world is untouched.  (But it may look different in these areas, since carsharing can provide "automobility" for the large segment of the population that may not be able to afford, and probably doesn't need to own, a car.

There's a variety of service models that get called carsharing: traditional (round-trip) services, and variants serving specialized markets, such as college campuses, government and corporate fleet carsharing, and getting closer to car rental model, there's unattended car rental (with carsharing elecronics but regular car rental rates and requirements) and variations on all of above. And, of course, there's one-way/round trip services, which are getting all the attention these days.

No matter what type of service you have in mind, there are some key considerations.  Here's my short list:


If you're not going to operate in North America or Europe, or if you have in mind a P2P carshare service anywhere, identifying insurance should be your very first order of business.   Carsharing insurance is more like a commercial auto policy, such as a corporate fleet or commuter van company might carry, not a personal auto policy.  And it probably isn't car rental insurance either - which is typically minimum coverage (in hopes of selling the customer additional coverage).  This means you have to dig deep to find insurance brokers that specialize in transportation.

And you will quickly find that insurance companies are in the business to make money.  They want to see that your company is going to grow sufficiently that the premiums you pay are worth their risk.  Don't waste your time, and that of insurance brokers, until you have developed a pretty well-defined concept with at least some basic financial projections.  Finding insurance is a slow process.  I can help speed it up.


While there are a couple basic pricing strategies that many companies use, this is one of the key factors that prospective customers will judge your service on.  While hourly with miles included is the norm for most of North America, it seriously limits the types of trips your service can be effectively provide.

Developing a good pricing model is more difficult than it seems, since people don't have much to compare carsharing rates to.  Ask yourself: is my pricing simple and understandable for the first-time user?  Does it provide a discount for more frequent users, both individuals and businesses?  The area of pricing, including membership plans and other fees, is a major topic that I spend time helping customers define and refine.  

Customer Service

Perhaps the aspect of carsharing that gets the least attention from start ups is fully developing a  customer support side of the business.  When you own a car, you provide your own customer service.  When you're a carsharing company, how you relate to the customer during the crisis times is where your reputation is defined.  And customers will let the world know when you screw up - via Twitter, Instagram, email to friends - but not necessarily back to you.  This cannot be overstated.  It's not necessarily about money, it's your companys attitude, as well.


Carsharing is still a new concept for most people.  Two competitors in the marketplace actually legitimize something that many people may have thought was marginal.  So your biggest competitor in your customer's mind is car ownership - not another carsharing company.

You have to address these concerns that your prospective customers have:

  • Will your service be reliable (a car available when I want it)? 
  • Will it be convenient (easy to make reservations or on-demand; ideally no more than 5 minute walk to the car?)  
  • Will it be economical (less expensive than owning a car, including parking)? 


What is the personality you want your proposed company to convey?  This is so essential it's often overlooked when working through all the financial and operational details of starting a new company.  What kind image is your service going to have: functional, fun, youth-oriented, luxury, cool, reliable, a cooperative/"sharing economy" business, a "local company" or a corporate brand?  As a good example, I point you to Autoshare — they have done an amazing job with their Keys to Wonderful campaign, moving beyond the functional "how does it work" and creating a lifestyle brand.   Beyond a great image, conveying that brand throughout everything you do is a challenge.

Business Plan

In addition to these questions, your business or operating plan needs to show how the day to day operations will be handled: Where will the cars be parked?  Are the assumptions in your pro forma financial projections realistic/reasonable? How many staff people do you need? Do you have a viable marketing strategy?    Are the vehicles leased or owned?  How often do you clean the cars?  Who's handling on-call duties on evenings and weekends?  And, of course, there are the telematics and carshare software platform decisions that may have been your first consideration.  I will offer this hint: rarely does it make sense to start out building your own system - you don't know how all the pieces of your business fit together yet, so how can you design a system to manage it?

Carsharing is a low-margin business so you really need to hit come out of the gate running - whether you're a car rental firm planning a carshare subsidiary, a non-profit in a small community, or a large corporate venture.  As a consultant,  I know I can help you avoid wasting a lot of time and money getting your business off the ground  — you know your local market, I know the industry.  

I am flexible in the way I work with clients — by the hour or day, or by the project.  The most basic way I work with start ups is by reviewing the business plan and offering comments and suggestions.  In addition, using the resources of Team Red I can also provide demographic and geographic analysis to help identify the most promising neighborhoods, conduct survey, etc.

Here's a link to the slides from Should You Become a Carsharing Operator webinar presented by myself and Julian Espiritu of Abrams Carsharing Consulting and sponsored by Metavera.  If you'd like to contact me use the link at the top right of this page.