Sunday, October 11, 2009

Multi-Mobility in the Los Angeles Basin - Some thoughts about Carsharing and Bicycles

Carsharing was one topics up for consideration at the second Multi-Mobility Forum sponsored by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on October 8. The driving force is the SB 375 passed by the California legislature last year mandating substantial cuts in greenhouse gases from transportation by 2020. Attending were representatives from many of the cities in the LA region.

Some people attending remembered the "glory days" of carsharing in Los Angeles region when Flexcar had more than 250 vehicles that were finally starting to generate revenues. They wondered what it would take to attract a major carsharing operator like Zipcar or Hertz Connect back again.

Technically, carsharing never completely left the area. Even before the merger with Zipcar, Flexcar had scaled-back the LA fleet (as they did in other markets, as well) and Zipcar continues to provide about 20 carsharing vehicles at the UCLA and USC campuses and immediately adjacent areas.

In my short presentation I reminded everyone that carsharing isn't a transportation demand management strategy by itself (like transit, ridesharing or bicycling), but it's the "glue" that can increase participation in these programs since it provides an alternative to car ownership (or second car ownership). And, as we all know (from personal experience):

Car ownership = Car over-use

Several of the presentations were about bicycle programs, including an interesting program to encourage people to buy folding bicycles for use on transit (see photo at the top of this post). I was personally fascinated by the folding bicycle demonstrated by Big Fish at the forum and also pleased to see the Bike Station was developing a modular approach to provide services through its new incarnation as Mobis.

I think public bicycles have some important lessons for carsharing. Most importantly, the lesson from the Paris Velib system, is to Think Big. Only by thinking big (and doing big) can you attract the kind of public attention that can make a difference. In addition, in my presentation I offered some suggestions for working with carsharing companies. I've posted several of the slides from presentation at the end of this post.

Unfortunately, unable to attend this session was Dan Sturges of Intrago Mobility, who coined the phrase multi-mobility and has one of the clearest visions of what the future of personal transportation could look like. His vision includes a combination of small electric and pedal vehicle for short trips ("near car") and strategically-located carsharing vehicles in clusters near major hubs for longer trips ("far cars"). His company is putting together the system that will make all this possible.

Several cities in the LA area are ripe for large-scale "classic" neighborhood carsharing (again): Long Beach and Santa Monica, in particular and I wish them well. Many thanks to Fred Silver of Calstart and Robin Blair of LA Metro for hosting the event.