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.