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Blogging from TRB: Carshare, Bikeshare, We All Care for Vehicle Share!
Bikesharing programs, like SmartBike in Washington, D.C., are a hot topic at TRB's Annual Meeting. Photo by Hugger Industries.

Bikesharing programs, like SmartBike in Washington, D.C., are a hot topic at TRB's Annual Meeting. Photo by Hugger Industries.

One of the most interesting sessions I attended on my first day of the TRB annual meeting outlined current research on market shares and modal impacts of carsharing and bike sharing.

Elliot Martin and his fellow researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that carsharing impacts vehicle ownership, reducing demand for vehicles.  Using a before-after survey of members of several carsharing organizations, the group observed that vehicles were shed after a household joined the carsharing organization.  Households had an average of .47 vehicles per household before joining, they only had .24 vehicles per household after becoming members.  The most common transition was from one car to none.  By aggregating these impacts, the researchers estimated that 9-13 vehicles are removed from the road for each carsharing vehicle deployed.  Though the study population was a self-selecting group of urban consumers and vehicle shedding numbers were based in part on hypothetical “would have” questions, it was interesting to see the effects of carsharing quantified.

Another presenter from Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique examined the relationship between neighborhood attributes and carsharing’s market share in her home city.  Her results showed that connectivity to public transit, the age of the transit station and the average employment rate had a positive impact on market share, while distance to the neighborhood center and household size had a negative relationship with market share.  These models showed no signs of market saturation, indicating that carsharing has the potential to attract a greater clientele in the study area.

Susan Shaheen, also from the University of California, Berkeley, gave an overview of the history and outlook of bike sharing across four continents.  She outlined four generations of bike sharing:

  • First generation: Typically free systems with brightly-colored bikes
    • This generation was exemplified by Amsterdam’s White Bike Program (1965), which eventually failed due to vandalism and theft
  • Second generation: Coin deposit systems (for example, Copenhagen’s 1995 program)
    • These systems were too haphazardly distributed for people to rely on
  • Third generation: Where we are now
    • Distinguishable bikes (color, design, ads)
    • Docking stations
    • Kiosk or user interface for check-in/-out
    • Advanced technology for access and payment
      • At the researchers’ last count, there are 100 programs in 125 cities with more than 140,000 bikes
      • Another 45 are planned in 22 countries in 2010
      • Asia is leading the pack, with the largest and most famous bike sharing program, the Hangzhou Public Bike system
  • Fourth generation: Where we’re headed
    • Flexible/mobile docking stations
    • Innovations in redistribution
    • Smart card integration with other modes
    • Advanced technologies including GPS, touchscreen kiosks and e-bikes

Shaheen highlighted key issues that need to be addressed before bike sharing progresses, including:

  • Redistribution issues – because bike sharing uses a one-way model (bikes come out of one location and are returned to another)
  • Insurance/liability – many programs have not been able to obtain insurance, and helmets are often not required
  • Real-time information
  • Theft/vandalism
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  • Carsharing and bikesharing are becoming a fixture in our society. It is difficult to afford all of the costs associated with owning a car but if you own a bike carsharing becomes a great insurance policy of a different kind. You can count on the car when you need it, not always at the last minute but definitely if you book in advance. Your costs include fuel and insurance if it breaks down you walk away. The only risk, if you crash and it is your fault then you pay a deductible just as if you had your own policy. We need to free ourselves from the big machine if you want to spend your money on daily transportation instead of vacations or anything else you love, that is your choice……