Monday, May 4, 2009

Sharing vs. Owning: The effects of car sharing

Ian Sacs, of Planetizen, recently reported on the effects of car sharing versus car ownership, and what do you know: the outcomes all seem to have positive ramifications! According to Sacs, "Surveys of members, data from existing programs, and empirical evidence from several developments have shown that when a car share vehicle is available in a convenient location, and usually combined with transit access, a significant number of people make a decision that it is no longer necessary to own a car." He goes on to conclude that the ratio of car sharing vehicles to households that voluntarily give up a personal car is roughly six to 23. However, Sacs is quick to note that as car sharing becomes more widespread, this ratio could double.

Moreover, adding car sharing vehicles to a development can significantly reduce demand for parking and, in turn, reduce construction costs. Although, Sacs also points out that simply "sprinkling car share vehicles nearby or even on-site is typically not enough to realize an appreciable reduction in private vehicle ownership. Rather, the developer must market car sharing as a feature" and include incentives to join—such as reduced membership costs, driving credits and so forth.

One of the less studied, yet equally important, effects of car sharing versus car ownership is the effect it has on the total number of trips a person takes each year. If you own your own car, the more you drive it, the more value you get out of it. Whereas when sharing a car, and paying per use, you are more likely to consider the true cost of taking a car versus public transportation, biking or walking.

While Sacs does not ignore the fact that car sharing is currently only found in, and seems to be most applicable in, urban areas, he does appear hopeful for expansion of the industry into suburban areas as well. To illustrate this point, he highlights the number of suburban families that own a second or third car that they rarely use and insists that adding a car sharing vehicle in these suburban areas may "significantly reduce the total number of vehicles needed in that community."

Has the availability of car sharing in Chicago convinced you to ditch your wheels? To drive less? Let us know your car sharing experience!

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