Monday, October 21, 2013

"Carsharing 2000": Sustainable Transport’s Missing Link

Paris, 21 October 2013. How much we learned about car sharing, and more importantly sustainable eb-tallinn-statementtransport in cities, over the last decade and a half? To put that question into perspective, please find below the full text of a year 2000 collaborative report prepared here in Paris with the help of knowledgeable colleagues from around the world which does a pretty good job of summing up the state-of-the-art state of thinking about these matters at the end of the 20th century. Have a look at this 13 year old overview of the industry and its prospects, and tell us what you think.


Carsharing 2000: Sustainable Transport’s Missing Link


Eric Britton, Paris, January 17, 2000

 - – > Full report available here.


A word of introduction:

For several decades now there has been in transport circles some marginal discussion about the concept of people sharing cars -- as opposed to the familiar owner/driver model which dominated virtually all of the last century.  Over the years there has also been a certain amount of experimentation and examples of people in specific places actually doing it in a variety of manners and with a considerable range of degrees of success.

But suddenly it’s the Year 2000, a new century is on us, and, as we all know, past patterns do not always hold on forever, particular in a climate of change.  Never mind the extremely rapid changes that we have been seeing in recent years in terms of people, their mobility choices, the environments in which they move around in their daily lives, and the exploding universe of technologies that make all this movement possible, including in new ways that most of us have never even dreamed about in the past.

Have you ever thought, for example, about what it means to own your own car in a city? Typically, this is something that you actually use barely an hour a day, less than five percent of the time, while it costs you on the order of anywhere from ten percent to up to a third of your net income. Doesn’t that sound to you like something that might be a candidate for some imaginative reshuffling…. if you have a choice that is?

The following summary attempts to provide a quick introduction to a concept that directly addresses this anomalous situation and does indeed, for the first time, offer some interesting alternatives. And although the basic concept will not be familiar to many people, our goal here is to put it before you and at the same time lead you to further information and details, just in case it captures your interest.  It takes the form of a few questions, selected on the basis that these are among those most often posed to us when people ask about the concept and the reasons why we think it is an idea for its time.

As is appropriate to our age, this is being prepared and presented as a multi-media document. Thus, you can either access and read it in print form, or alternatively you can access it freely on the World Wide Web (at www.ecoplan.org/carshare), and from there you can link directly to a number of interesting sources, documents and actual projects, which will help to ram the concept home. You may as well know about it, since an awful lot of people are going to be doing it.  Including probably you.

Eric Britton
The World Carshare Consortium
EcoPlan International, Paris
January 17, 2000


 - – > Full 2000 report available here.


Extracts from opening pages of report: carsharing 2000 p1

carsharing 2000 essum

carsharing 2000 toc1

carsharing 2000 toc2

carsharing 2000 toc3

carsharing 2000 toc4Selected extracts from 2000 Summary Report


Carsharing: A Hammer for Sustainable Cities



For several decades now there has been in transport circles some marginal discussion about the concept of people sharing cars -- as opposed to the familiar owner/driver model which dominated virtually all of the last century.  Over the years there has also been a certain amount of experimentation and examples of people in specific places actually doing it in a variety of manners and with a considerable range of degrees of success.

But suddenly it’s the Year 2000, a new century is on us, and, as we all know, past patterns do not always hold on forever, particular in a climate of change.  Never mind the extremely rapid changes that we have been seeing in recent years in terms of people, their mobility choices, the environments in which they move around in their daily lives, and the exploding universe of technologies that make all this movement possible, including in new ways that most of us have never even dreamed about in the past.

Have you ever thought, for example, about what it means to own your own car in a city? Typically, this is something that you actually use barely an hour a day, less than five percent of the time, while it costs you on the order of anywhere from ten percent to up to a third of your net income. Doesn’t that sound to you like something that might be a candidate for some imaginative reshuffling…. if you have a choice that is?

The following summary attempts to provide a quick introduction to a concept that directly addresses this anomalous situation and does indeed, for the first time, offer some interesting alternatives. And although the basic concept will not be familiar to many people, our goal here is to put it before you and at the same time lead you to further information and details, just in case it captures your interest.  It takes the form of a few questions, selected on the basis that these are among those most often posed to us when people ask about the concept and the reasons why we think it is an idea for its time.

As is appropriate to our age, this is being prepared and presented as a multi-media document. Thus, you can either access and read it in print form, or alternatively you can access it freely on the World Wide Web (at www.ecoplan.org/carshare), and from there you can link directly to a number of interesting sources, documents and actual projects, which will help to ram the concept home. You may as well know about it, since an awful lot of people are going to be doing it.  Including probably you.

Eric Britton
The World CarShare Consortium
EcoPlan and The Commons, Paris
January 17, 2000



7. What’s in it for cities?



One of the prime beneficiaries of the switch to carsharing will be cities, though thus far it has proven very hard to make this case. The first cracks in the dike of resistance have been in Zurich and Berlin, followed by a number of other cities in Germany and Switzerland, with some in the Netherlands right on their trail.  One wonders why this is proving such a hard sell since the advantages appear to be so overwhelming.

It’s this simple.  If you are a mayor or other elected local official in a city that corresponds with the rough profile that is appropriate for carsharing  to have its full impact (clustered settlement patterns and decent to excellent public and non-motorized transport provision), it is our view that you would have to be quite mad NOT to give this idea your careful consideration. Of course one needs to bear in mind, as we have said, that it is not a concept that is going to be viable for all people in all places (for example in suburban sprawl or many rural situations it is an obvious nonstarter).

In the first instance the host city will benefit from the potential for environmental improvements as just mentioned, and of course the enormous savings on costly parking spaces. Beyond this, with fewer cars out on the street, there will be substantial potential savings for the building and maintenance of the supporting road infrastructure. Moreover, these services put cars at the disposal of those who may not be able to afford their own car but who still from time to time need one (social justice).

Further, there is the synergistic support for public transport, since the carsharer is going to be using it most of the time. Likewise carsharing  provides more “customers” for the most sustainable transportation modes, walking and biking, for the same reasons.

The other half of this coin, however, is that if indeed this is an important tool for cities, that the cities themselves and the politicians and civil servants who run them must realize their importance and be ready to support them as needed. Now the kind of support that is needed for carsharing  is quite different from the more traditional role between local government and the transportation system. Based on experience, it can be seen that what is needed is not great clots of taxpayer moneys to fund the whole thing, but rather an attentive and capable local administration that is ready to come in and provide a wide range of “softer” support functions.

Can carsharing  exist without the active and intelligent support of local government? Perhaps, but most probably only with great difficulty and certainly with considerably less vitality and growth than would otherwise be the case.  The idea however is not to get in the way of the spirit of enterprise that is needed to make these things work, but to learn how to support it. This will be a new and unfamiliar experience for many elected officials and administrators, but one that is going to serve them in good stead as well in other sectors of city life which also are going to need entirely new approaches.

8. Does new technology have any sort of role in this?



Until quite recently most carshare projects have been quite conservative in their use of technology.  This was brought about by several factors, one being the fact that most were set up as rather informal low cost operations and targeted for a specific local user group.  So the car was just any old car and the reservation system based on POTS (plain old telephone service), while keys were kept in a metal box next to the parking space and all user logs manually maintained.  And if this strikes you as a bit primitive, the fact is that it has worked in the past and there are still places where people find that quite satisfactory today.

But at the leading edge things are now moving along quite swiftly, as might well be expected given the extent to which information and communications technologies are transforming many areas of society and the economy, including among the most impacted the transportation sector.  And what is carsharing  anyway, if not basically a puzzle of information and logistics, which is exactly the sort of job that all these technologies do best.

Here are some of the areas in which these new technologies can be expected to shape and influence both the basic functioning and the viably and quality of service associated with carsharing  operations.

  • General information and marketing

  • Overall project management

  • Reservations

  • Interfaces with other cooperating transportation systems and carriers

  • Interfaces with ATIS (where they have been developed)

  • Vehicle location (both when parked and when moving)

  • Vehicle access (getting to the car, unlocking it, using it, then locking it)

  • Vehicle condition (monitoring and maintenance assistance)

  • Trip logging and billing

  • Dynamic mapping and on-board travel information

  • Emergency services


If we observe what is going on at the leading projects that are fast expanding in both membership, vehicle parc and overall functionality, it can be seen that this process is already well engaged. The idea is to make each service as seamless and easy to use as possible. And it is the technology that is permitting this to happen.

Next steps on the technology front?  Probably the marriage of carsharing  and mobile communications, for example the use of WAP phones as the main interface between the user and the carshare system. After all, though a full scale computer hooked into a carsharing  system with a high quality management interface over the Web, how much handier it would be to have all this capability in your pocket for information, access and use as and when you need it.

9.   Recommendations



Building on these last years of international communications and work via the @World CarShare Consortium, and all the effort and exchanges that have gone into producing this report, and above all on the accumulated knowledge of the group and the experience of more than 400 projects in more than a dozen countries, here are our considered recommendations for action for the Year 2000:

1. Global Objective:  Set a concrete, measurable goal, and then meet it

carsharing - 1000 new projects - 20002.  Create National Carshare Task Forces to Make it Happen

Gear up to create a world wide web of national and regional  “Carshare Task Forces” or support groups, thereby creating well-supported, dynamic new communications and knowledge building frameworks for the development and support of focused partnerships between those concerned with environmental, transport, urban and regional plans, together with those communities, companies, groups and others who are or may eventually be interested in advancing these concepts in one or more places.

  • Other actors who can usefully be brought to the table for these exchanges include: public transport operators, taxis, rental cars, rail companies, parking operations, and others in the transport sector who may make good partners for the kinds of multi-modal collaboration that lies at the heart of a successful carsharing enterprise.

  • Employers, commercial centers, larger leisure and sports complexes,  and other major activity nodes in areas where parking is a problem could also find it useful to follow and eventually to consider some form of pilot or even full scale participation in a carshare implementation project.

  • We would  hope that institutional support can be found to encourage more and better public/private partnerships in this area, including considerations of the scope for interaction and cooperation with automobile manufactures and car rental firms.

  • Other related private sector actors who might also be usefully brought to the table could include energy firms, the owners of gasoline/petrol distribution/service stations, parking groups, package delivery firms, and pretty much any other group or agency in either public or private sector who might have some spare urban real estate that could be used to support such operations.

  • Closely related concepts such as the new “mobility centers” that are getting increasing attention in Europe must of course be closely linked to any efforts aimed at developing more and better carsharing

  • Since there is as yet  no clear “best practice model” for such task force organization and composition, it is suggested that these various national and regional teams will do well to make efficient use of the best existing means of communications and information (and expertise) exchange among them -- thus learning from each other as they go along.  If the communications lines are kept fully open this process of open and vigorous cross-learning should quickly lead to some very good models and approaches to organization and support at these levels.

  • 21st century communications technologies lend themselves exceptionally well to this task. In addition, there are a number of programs and means for such coordinating exchanges already available, most of which are identified in the preceding pages or via the @Carshare Web site.


3.  City and Regional Task Forces to Support Local Start-Ups

We likewise hope that similar cross-cutting local  task forces will be organized to serve and assist new and better projects in specific places.  These local teams will also find it to their advantage to make use of the available means to exchange information and expertise, as close as possible to a real time basis.  (While at the same time being sure that these flows of messages and materials take place in ways that are not disturbing or encumbering, yet are there and easily accessible when needed.)

4.  European Union:

We would expect to see carshare schemes and support built in to EU wide programs of RD&D, especially those covered by the 5th Framework Programme and applied to intelligent and sustainable cities.

  • The European Commission can do a great deal through its transportation, environment, energy, communications, and new technology programs to advance the carshare agenda across Europe.

  • It would be useful if the means could be found to better coordinate the many highly dispersed activities of the Commission and other European agencies that relate to matters which are central to the success of carshare projects.

  • The Commission could also do much to step up discussions between the carsharing community and the private sector, including of course the vehicle manufacturers, car rental firms, and the other major suppliers of equipment and services to the sector.

  • Likewise, it would be useful to see what could be done to create a public discourse with the insurance industry, on the grounds that insurance continues to be one of the most significant problems faced by carshare organizers.

  • Finally, we would like to see the Commission and other European agencies give more attention to supporting non-commercial carshare projects and developments, including those all or largely in the volunteer sector.  It is important for thee future that these more informal projects not be left out in the cold in a wave of enthusiasm of concepts that are based entirely on market forces. It is our firm belief that the volunteer and informal sector have much to offer, including to those citizens and groups who like to do things for themselves.


5.  Meetings and Conferences


After years of neglect, other groups and organizations are now finally beginning to gear up to take a more active role. For example, there are more than a dozen meetings, conferences or workshops slated to be held on our topic over 2000.  Here are our recommendations to the organizers of those meetings and the projects and follow-up efforts that they may eventually engender:

  • Please do not isolate yourselves.  Place your meeting and the activities that you may be intended to do right in the mainstream of ongoing international cooperation and exchanges on our topic.

  • Create a first class interactive Web site for the meeting  that will help open up both your conference and program to useful inputs as well as to make its contents, proposed projects and findings available to a world that needs more help and information in this important area – and if you don’t have time, taste or resources to do that, make use of one or more of those that are already available.

  • Make full use of the multimedia and print material that are now available on our common topic, and make sure that everyone who comes to your meeting or project has copies well in advance (not hard, bearing in mind that they are all basically free and readily available).

  • Consider working with our team to develop additional materials that can be incorporated into either a future version of these existing reports (both of which are “Movable Feasts” and are to be updated and extended on a regular basis).

  • If you are going to be working in a language other than English, why not consider translation g and adapting this text



  • Make your meeting and intentions widely known. There are a lot of smart and knowledgeable people out there who are ready to help any worthy venture in this area.  Announce the events on the various Web sites that deal with these matters, including not only the handful of carshare sites that are serving as turntables for this information and other activities, but also some of the best more general sites and discussion lists (go to @Access on the Web site at http://www.ecoplan.org/access for more suggestions here).


6.  University Links:


It would be encouraging and useful if the range of concerned specialized university and technical school faculties could consider how their students and programs might begin to provide more of the kinds of hands-on expertise and active support that is needed for “bottom-up” projects such as these.  Carsharing is not an abstract thesis concept; it is one that should involve the student and teaching staff and give application and meaning to their professional and personal development.

7.     Our Part in All This

Although it’s often done, we have never thought it either particularly fair or effective when it comes to books or reports such as this, that the author ends by telling the world what to do, with the presumption that she or he has already done their part and get back to the garden.  Now if it’s Tolstoy or Goethe at the pen that’s one thing, but all the sort of thing that we are seeing in the save the world vein these days, that somehow has a phony ring to it.

So, we have made our recommendations for the rest of the world, and here is what we are prepared to do for our part:

  • Maintain and enhance that @World Carshare website

  • Expand it to permit more interactivity and more multi media as the technology advances (which of course is not only sure but close to blindingly fact)

  • Translation and adaptations – including development of national Carshare Manuals or Guidelines which build on and incorporate all of parts of this work as useful

  • Work on the transportation agencies to try to encourage this new thinking – including finding the usually younger people there and involving them in a form of cross-cutting work for which they are often better equipped by education, habit and values than their older colleagues.


After all?  We have one thousand new projects that we need to get underway in barely five years.  That means we shall have to find a way to put our heads and muscle together to get one new start-up every other day.  Sound like a tough job?  That’s why we need the hammer.

# # #

 - – > Full report available here.

eb-about the editor - 18oct13

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