The growth of car sharing in Australia, especially in Melbourne and Sydney, where 90 percent of the users and vehicles are based, has shifted transport strategies from car ownership to car rental to car sharing. The speed of this trend has seen a doubling of GoGet members every year since its launch in 2003. In 2015, GoGet had 1,500 vehicles Australia-wide, estimated to remove 100,000 cars from the road. The City of Sydney and other Australian municipalities have reported reductions in car ownership and street congestion. This shift from personal to shared cars is facilitated by a concurrence of factors, including smartphones with access to car-sharing apps, limited and costly parking in Sydney and Melbourne, and the convenience of retaining access to car transport while Collaborative consumption,1 made possible by connectivity between consumers, is on the rise. Examples such as AirBnB, GoGet, and Velib abound. Shared transportation among multiple users is growing in popularity in various cities. What is the impact of these trends?
The number of members in car-sharing schemes has also increased in the Americas -from 62,348 in 2002 to 1.5 million in January 2015. A study conducted by automotive consulting house AlixPartners suggests that car sharing is a growing threat to car sales. It forecasts that car sharing will replace 1.2 million new vehicles in the US by 2021. Moreover, a single car-sharing fleet vehicle will displace 32 vehicles that otherwise would have been purchased, leading to less congested roads.
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Yet another benefit of car sharing would be reduced parking requirements, as shared vehicles tend to present much fewer parking demands than owned vehicles, as they are on the move for most of the day. Earnings for driver-led services such as Uber depend on the number of rides, to maximize which the cars tend to be in motion all day, and hence demand less parking in comparison to commuters’ cars that are parked in the lot. The Car2go program, launched by Mercedes-Benz, allows users to share the Smart Fortwo EV. The Bollore Group, based in France, has plans to send 3,000 EVs to London for sharing, with a tentative investment of £100 million. Such heavy backing of funds and brands demonstrates confidence in the prediction that competition will become more intense as more drivers start to opt for sharing rather than owning.
This trend towards car sharing is replicated in other transport modes, such as bike sharing, which has grown exponentially in the last decade. The number of cities globally with bike-sharing schemes increased from just four in 2001 to 1,000 in 2016. Cities such as Amsterdam would be significantly worse off without bicycles. Cycling constitutes 32 percent of all journeys in Amsterdam and 48 percent in the city centre. Currently, the city boasts 800.000 bikes and more than 250,000 public bike-parking spots. With an increasing commitment to cycling, the city will invest in 40.000 new bike-parking spaces by 2030. A subaquatic 7,000-bike parking garage is planned under the artificial waterfront, near the Central Station. Another two new islands, each with a capacity for 2,000 bikes, will be constructed by 2030. The imperative for the city is not the scale of the undertaking, but the recognition that space in Amsterdam is at a premium. It may be an exceptional case; however, it does present a promising scenario of the benefits of investment in cycling infrastructure to be considered by other cities where bike-sharing schemes are already growing in popularity and usage.
According to data compiled by Russell Meddin, the global bike-share fleet comprises almost a million bicycles. Innovative technological advancements in smart cards and tracking of cycle fleets have made it increasingly feasible for more cities to adopt bike sharing. Information communications technology has enabled efficient management of fleets and reduced theft. If bike sharing, with its exposure to the elements, is to compete with climate-controlled cars, it must become more convenient and accessible. Innovation is essential to make the bike-sharing industry a strong mobility contender. Companies such as JCDecaux, operator of Paris’ Velib, are leading the way. It is testing a pedelec system and automatic gear-change mechanism in Velib bikes to increase comfort and convenience and attract new users.
The increase in bike sharing has made a substantial contribution towards making cities more connected. Operating at a human scale, bikes open up opportunities for city managers to encourage interactive places and place making.