Carsharing offers many well-documented personal, social and community benefits.
Personal benefits include freedom from the cost burdens and other hassles of car ownership including monthly payments, insurance, maintenance, repairs, parking, parking and other tickets, annual vehicle registration, and car shopping.
Carsharing’s primary social benefit is that it allows anyone–including lower-income communities, students, and seniors–to affordably and sustainably maintain full personal mobility via occasional access to a car while avoiding all of the costs and also helping reduce congestion, parking demand, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Each carsharing vehicle removes an average of 15 privately owned cars from the community, as participants sell a vehicle or forgo a planned purchase. This cuts parking demand and creates opportunities to reallocate land for parks, new housing, or other community needs. Most former car owners shift their travel behavior significantly after joining, increasing their transit use, walking and cycling more, and reducing their total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by an average of 44 percent.
Most carsharing operators are keen to serve lower-income populations if they can do so in a way that is financially and operationally sustainable. In our report, we summarize almost 20 low-income carsharing initiatives and offer our recommended best practices and lessons learned. Many operators have tried to provide low-income populations with carsharing services and several organizations have met with qualified success; however, nobody to date has really figured out how to provide access to large numbers of low-income people without outside subsidies.
Our recommendations for how to offer carsharing to low-income populations include partnering with local community-based organizations for outreach, creating tiering pricing systems, and integrating specific kinds of payment systems that support unbanked drivers.
The full report can be read here.