Shared-use mobility is a term used to describe transportation services that are shared among users, including public transit; taxis and limos; bikesharing; carsharing (round-trip, one-way, and personal vehicle sharing);  ridesharing (carpooling, vanpooling); ridesourcing/ride-splitting; scooter sharing; shuttle services; neighborhood jitneys; and more.

Following is an overview of shared mobility as well as specifics on several relevant modes. For more information, SUMC has also developed a comprehensive Shared-Use Mobility Reference Guide to help prepare government, business, and community leaders to address the rapid changes currently taking place in cities across the nation. The guide includes recommended definitions for new shared modes of transportation, updates on the latest industry trends, evaluation of changing local government roles and policy choices and more. You can access the guide here.

Background

Shared transportation has grown tremendously in recent years as a renewed interest in urbanism and growing environmental, energy and economic concerns have intensified the need for sustainable alternatives.

Simultaneously, advances in electronic and wireless technologies have made sharing assets easier and more efficient. Automobile manufacturers, rental car companies, venture-backed startups and city-sponsored programs have sprung up with new solutions ranging from large physical networks to mobile applications designed to alter routes, fill empty seats and combine fare media and real-time arrival and departure information.

These new services represent innovative responses to the demand for new options, and offer an opportunity to:

  • Provide more mobility choices
  • Address last mile and first mile solutions
  • Reduce traffic congestion
  • Mitigate various forms of pollution
  • Reduce transportation costs
  • Improve efficiency
  • Identify choices for those who cannot afford to buy and maintain a vehicle

Bikesharing

First established in Amsterdam in 1965, public bikesharing has been in existence for decades but has recently gained prominence due to the rapid expansion of bikesharing systems into new locations, as well as the scale of their operations. This expansion is based in large part on information technology (IT) that has improved bikesharing communications and tracking and the desire of city governments to move toward sustainable transportation modes.

In 2005, there were only 74 bikesharing systems in the world. Today, there are over 1,000, with more than 120 located in the United States alone. Bikesharing comes in multiple forms, including public, closed community and peer-to-peer systems. Bikesharing allows users to take short point-to-point trips using a fleet of public bikes distributed throughout a community. Closed community bikesharing is commonly found on college campuses, has closed membership, and offers mainly round trips. Peer-to-peer bikesharing allows users to rent or borrow bikes hourly or daily from individuals or bike rental shops.

The greatest growth is in public bikesharing that is IT-driven, providing real-time information and using technology to assist in rebalancing demand for bikes at docking stations throughout a community. Many of these programs are publicly owned and contractor operated, but some programs are run by nonprofit organizations, such as Nice Ride Minnesota.

Bikesharing has the potential to play an important role in bridging some of the gaps in existing transportation networks, as well as encouraging individuals to use multiple transportation modes. Potential bikesharing benefits include: increased mobility; lower transportation costs; reduced fuel use; economic development; health benefits; and greater environmental awareness.

The ultimate goal of public bike-sharing is to expand and integrate cycling into transportation systems, so that it can more readily become a daily transportation mode for commuting, personal trips and recreation.

Carsharing

Carsharing is a service that provides members with access to an automobile for short-term – usually hourly – use. The shared cars are distributed across a network of locations within a metropolitan area. Members can access the vehicles at any time with a reservation and are charged by time or by mile. Carsharing thus provides some of the benefits of a personal automobile without the costs of owning a private vehicle.

Car-sharing services offer several models, including:

  • Round-trip
  • Point-to-point or one-way
  • Peer-to-peer

The most common model of carsharing operation is  round-trip, which requires customers to borrow and return vehicles at the same location. However, point-to-point systems – which allow customers to pick up a vehicle at one location and drop it off at another – have experienced significant growth in recent years and are quickly gaining ground on “traditional” carsharing.

Peer-to-peer carsharing, where vehicle owners monetize the excess capacity of their vehicles by enrolling them in carsharing programs, is also growing in some areas.

Carsharing offers many benefits, including decreasing the need for personal car ownership. For instance, a University of California, Berkeley report estimated one carshare car displaces approximately nine to 13 private vehicles. Other benefits include extending affordable access to transportation, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels and encouraging residents to use other forms of transportation, including walking, cycling and public transit.

Over the past three decades, carsharing has grown from a collection of local grassroots organizations into a worldwide industry. Recently, the lines between carsharing, carpooling and ride-hailing have begun to blur as automakers, tech companies and other stakeholders pilot new services that combine several mobility offerings into one platform.

Flexible Commercial Delivery

Shared-use mobility also has great potential for the commercial delivery sector. Shared trucks, electric vehicles and light electric assist cargo bikes can deliver goods at a lower cost than trucks in many situations. This is a niche that could take off quickly due to growing demand for immediate deliveries.

Public Transit

Transit – publicly owned fleets of buses, trains, ferries, facilities and rights of way, with fixed route local and express service – is the foundation for much of shared mobility. There is great untapped potential for transit agencies to integrate with or offer shared modes to increase access to transportation and lower costs. Both large technology companies and emerging app entrepreneurs are working to develop integration platforms that cross these modes. For example, several mobile apps currently on the market aggregate information about various transportation options available in a given city so that users can choose from a menu of real-time transportation options to get their destination, including transit, taxi service, carsharing or ridesharing.

Ridesharing

Traditional ridesharing includes carpooling (grouping of travelers into a privately owned vehicle, typically for commuting), vanpooling (sharing of a ride in a van by commuters traveling to/from a job center) and real-time ridesharing services (matching of drivers and passengers based on destination, through a mobile app before the trip starts and through which the passenger pays a share of the trip cost).

Ridesharing essentially focuses on the issue of filling empty seats in vehicles, which helps better realize vehicle occupancy potential and reduces the number of vehicles on the roadway. As such, ridesharing can be a powerful tool to address problems of congestion, emissions and fossil fuel dependency.

Ride-Hailing

Ride-hailing or ridesourcing providers such as Uber and Lyft —codified in California law as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)—use online platforms to connect passengers with drivers who use personal, non-commercial, vehicles. Ridesourcing has become one of the most recognized and ubiquitous forms of shared mobility. Uber, for example, is currently valued at more than $50 billion and operates in 60 countries and approximately 300 cities worldwide. Because, at least initially, they have been less regulated than the traditional taxi and limo services they compete with, TNCs have also generated some controversy and have been banned by some governments.

Increasingly, these companies are pursuing something more akin to traditional ridesharing, which involves the sharing of one vehicle by multiple riders to reduce vehicle trips. UberPOOL and Lyft Line, for example, allow drivers carrying a passenger to add additional passengers riding a similar route. These services are known as “ride-splitting,” since the passengers then split the cost of the trip.

Scooter Sharing

Scooter sharing is provided by operators of fleets of motorized scooters made available to users by the minute or hour.  Scooter sharing also can be round trip or one-way.

Shuttles

Shuttle services include corporate, regional and local shuttles that make limited stops and only pick up the employees of specific companies. One example is the Google Bus, which has joined other bus services owned by technology companies that drive San Francisco based employees to and from Silicon Valley. Most recently, IT-enabled private bus services that provide service using dynamically generated routes, such as Bridj, Via, and Chariot, have emerged. They typically draw customers who are willing to play somewhat more for greater comfort and service.

Taxis and Limos

Taxis and limos are regulated for-hire vehicles that pick up passengers via street hails or pre-arrangement. With taxis, the fare is meter-based. Jitneys are privately-owned vehicles that operate like taxis or buses, but often without official licenses. Jitneys traditionally have been used for transportation in low-income neighborhoods, which often have limited access to public transportation and poor service by taxi cabs.

SUMC will continue to track developments in terms and usage as the shared mobility industry evolves. Please feel free to contact us with questions and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on our latest progress.