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Posts from the "car-sharing" Category

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How Shared Vehicles Are Changing the Way We Get Around

Cities around the country are cracking down on ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, conducting sting operations and sending cease and desist letters, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing down the meteoric rise of shared transportation. The Shared-Use Mobility Center launched yesterday at a policy summit for shared-use transportation in Washington, DC.

One-way services like Car2go has continued to increase the popularity of car-sharing. Photo: ##http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2011/10/car2go-vancouver-free-registration-minutes/##VanCityBuzz##

One-way services like Car2go has continued to increase the popularity of car-sharing. Photo: VanCityBuzz

Here are a few takeaways.

Demographic changes are paving the way for a major transportation transformation. According to John Martin of the Southeastern Institute of Research, the habit of sharing our lives on Facebook has bled into a habit of sharing assets offline. Access is more important than ownership. Collaborative consumption is frugal, ecological, and in fashion.

Sharing technologies blur the lines between public and private. Notwithstanding the outright war on Uber and Lyft mentioned above, many sharing technologies are embraced — and even pioneered — by government. Gabe Klein said that when he was at DDOT and launching Capital Bikeshare, they wanted to make it look more like Zipcar than a government program. “People don’t care if it’s for-profit or nonprofit,” Klein said. “They don’t even care if it’s Uber or the bus. Particularly younger people.” And cities have helped pave the way for car-sharing, providing permanent parking spaces and waiving rental taxes that would have been prohibitive — an $8.00 tax on a $7.00 ride. RideScout, which opened in 69 cities this week, shows people all their transportation options — public, private, active and otherwise — on their phones. “It tells them: Is it cheaper? Is it faster? Is it better exercise?” said Klein.

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Seven Ways Technology Is Rendering the Automobile Obsolete

As we try to understand why young people are so much less jazzed about driving than previous generations, one possible explanation always comes up: Kids today just love their smart phones.

That is part of it. But the full picture is far more nuanced.

The internet, and the ability to carry it wherever you go, has changed society in so many profound ways it’s no surprise that transportation is among them. A new study by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group, “A New Direction,” illustrates the myriad ways mobile technology has transformed young people’s relationship with transportation.

Yesterday, we covered the report’s critique of government travel forecasting and its analysis of why young people’s driving rates will probably remain lower than those of previous generations. Technology is one of the biggest reasons. Here’s why:

Go ahead, check your stocks online – but not if you’re behind the wheel, please. Photo: PC Mag

Constant connectivity. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed at the dinner table or on city sidewalks, people have trouble putting down their phones. It’s not just compulsive Facebook status checking that keeps people glued to their devices. People perform an increasingly broad assortment of tasks on phones: make travel reservations, go through work email, catch up on the news, diagnose children’s ailments — the list is nearly infinite. While car companies are trying heartily to incorporate digital connectivity and social media into their cars, they still need to battle the fact that such technology is dangerously distracting for drivers. Given the option, many young people would rather take transit, where they can use their phones harmlessly, making far better use of their commuting time.

Alternative social spaces. Older adults may think it’s weird when teens would rather text each other than see each other, but hey, the world is a weird place. “A survey by computer networking equipment maker Cisco in 2012 found that two-thirds of college students and young professionals spend at least as much time with friends online as they do in person,” write report authors Phineas Baxandall and Tony Dutzik.

Online shopping. More and more people are making purchases online rather than in stores. Young people are leading the way on that, too. And it can be greener than going to the store yourself.

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Expanding Car-Share Beyond America’s Biggest Cities

The staff of Buffalo CarShare is working to make the service accessible to people with low incomes. Image: Buffalo CarShare

The growth of car-share has helped people forgo the expense of car ownership in major cities like Washington and Seattle, where it’s been widely adopted. But not every city has the market to sustain car-share services from companies like Zipcar or Hertz. In his book Walkable City, Jeff Speck writes that your city might not be “ready” for car-share if, when you stick out your hand downtown, a cab doesn’t stop.

Now an organization in Buffalo, New York, is working to open up car-share to new markets and new demographics. The non-profit Buffalo CarShare has grown to serve 500 members since it launched four years ago in one of the poorest cities in the country.

Making car-share work in a city like Buffalo took some adaptation. Co-founder and executive director Creighton Randall says Buffalo CarShare has had to adjust its business model to appeal to a much more diverse clientele than, say, Zipcar. Nearly half of Buffalo CarShare’s members live in households with an annual income of less than $25,000. About a quarter don’t have an email account. By contrast, less than 13 percent of Zipcar users report household incomes lower than $30,000. In Buffalo, Zipcar markets its cars almost exclusively to University of Buffalo students and staff.

Buffalo CarShare is able to reach people with low incomes primarily because — in contrast to Zipcar — it is willing to serve customers face-to-face or through the mail, if need be, Randall says. The business operates out of a transit-accessible storefront near the city center — and many of its customers are walk-ins. The organization is also willing to send out bills by mail, or accept money orders. Its 14 cars are sited at 12 different locations across the city.

“If we appealed to the same membership base in other cities where this works, it just wouldn’t work,” said Randall. “For car-sharing to work in a smaller city like Buffalo, that doesn’t have an enormous college as an anchor institution, it needs to work for everybody.”

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Avis Acquires Zipcar: What Are the Implications?

In a sign of the increasing market for car-sharing, Avis car rental is expected to purchase Zipcar today for a tidy $500 million. With the acquisition, the car rental giant will begin offering short-term car rentals, as have competitors Global and Enterprise.

Avis today purchased Zipcar. Good news, or bad? Photo: Dallas Morning News

Car-sharing has the potential to help households make more trips via transit, biking, or walking, instead of using the car as the default choice for every trip. But is the Zipcar acquisition good or bad news for the shift to cleaner, more efficient modes? The short answer is that, at this point, it’s anyone’s guess and could still play out either way.

Since its founding in 2000, Zipcar has gained 760,000 members, the New York Times reports. It operates in 20 metro areas in North America and Europe, and on many college campuses.

Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog predicts that Avis will basically wreck Zipcar by making it operate more like the parent company and less like the upstart that has appealed to car-lite customers who want to avoid the expense and hassles of car ownership. He also raises anti-trust concerns, pointing to the increasing concentration of the car-rental business in the hands of a few large firms.

If Avis uses Zipcar to expand the availability of short-term rentals in areas where car-sharing can replace car-owning, however, this could turn out to be good news. (Places like the west side of Cleveland could certainly use a convenient car-sharing service, hint, hint).

Matt Yglesias over at Slate writes that the merger will put the Zipcar business on sounder footing (the company turned its first profit last year), and predicts that Avis’s resources will immediately help smooth out some wrinkles in Zipcar service:

Zipcar’s big outstanding problem is that demand for Zipcars is highly spiky. People who want to use a car to commute to work are going to want to own their own vehicle. And people generally need to work during weekdays. Which means that demand for spot rentals is very highly concentrated on the weekends, which makes it hard for Zipcar to manage inventory efficiently. Avis says that combining its fleet with Zipcar’s will make it much easier to meet those demand peaks, as individual vehicles can switch from hourly rental to traditional rental on a day-by-day basis.

Yglesias also raises the question of whether Avis will be as active as Zipcar in lobbying for progressive policy changes like reducing parking minimums. The larger company may bring more firepower to those debates, he writes, or it may lack the same intensity of interest as Zipcar.