Car sharing gains traction with urban drivers

Car-share services across North America are proving they’re not a passing fad as a growing percentage of urban dwellers — facing high parking prices, a lack of spaces, urban congestion and urban smog, not to mention higher fuel prices — are choosing to not own vehicles. Research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts car-sharing membership will grow eightfold between now and 2016, when North American membership is expected to reach 4.4 million. This represents a car-share fleet of 70,000 vehicles. Since every car-share vehicle is estimated to replace 15 cars on the road, this works out to about a million fewer cars on the streets by 2016. It’s a trend that automakers can’t ignore, according to Frost, which predicts car sales will be affected over the long term.

I’ve got a weekend feature in the Toronto Star that takes a closer look at car-sharing in Toronto, where two services — Zipcar and AutoShare — currently compete. I’ve also got a short story on a new car-share service starting out in Baltimore called RelayRides, which pegs itself as the first peer-to-peer car-share service in North America. Instead of owning its own fleet, RelayRides enables anyone who owns a car to sign up and make their vehicles available for short-term rental by other members of the public. It’s an interesting model that, while full of risks and very tricky to implement, could work in certain markets.

2 thoughts on “Car sharing gains traction with urban drivers”

  1. My whole family was astonished when my sister–once the most car-dependent of all the siblings–got a job in a new city, sold her suburban house and moved her family into an apartment building downtown. They also sold their car and signed up for a car-sharing scheme. It was all meant to be temporary, but it’s been over 5 years now: they’re still in the same apartment, and they’ve only recently bought a car.

    My sister and her husband were the last people you’d expect to see car-sharing, but clearly it suited them so well that they stuck with it for years longer than intended. (No doubt this is partly down to moving into a compact, walkable urban neighbourhood.)

    Yes, they eventually wound up getting a car. But imagine if every young couple delays buying a car for just 3, 4 or 5 years: how many vehicles would that take off the road?

  2. My best friend and I owned a car together for several years. We would alternate, each of us having it for a week at a time. Cut our insurance and maintenance fees in half. It worked really well, and I never missed having the car the week it was with her — I could always arrange my life so that out of town trips, major grocery shops, etc. took place on the week I had the car. It worked so well that we sold that car and got another one together!

    Private car-ownership deals can be very successfull if undertaken with a good friend or relative whom you can trust, and if you discuss in advance things like what will happen if there is an accident (luckily, we never had this happen).

    Even though it was just two of us sharing, we still felt good knowing that we were taking one more car off the road — without impacting our lifetyle greatly, to boot. I think that this would work with up to 3 people quite well.

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