Mobility and the Sharing Economy: Potential to Overcome First- and Last-Mile Public Transit Connections

Authors: Susan Shaheen, PhD and Nelson Chan

Date: January 2016


Shared mobility—the shared use of a motor vehicle, bicycle, or other mode—enables travelers to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an as-needed basis. The term “shared mobility” includes the modes of carsharing, personal vehicle sharing (peer-to-peer carsharing and fractional ownership), bikesharing, scooter sharing, traditional ridesharing, transportation network companies (or ridesourcing), and e-Hail (taxis). It can also include flexible transit services, including microtransit, which supplement fixed-route bus and rail services. Shared mobility has proliferated in global cities not only as an innovative transportation mode enhancing urban mobility but also as a potential solution for addressing first- and last-mile connectivity with public transit. It can extend the catchment area of public transportation, potentially playing a pivotal role in bridging gaps in the existing transportation network and encouraging multimodality for first- and last-mile trips rather than driving alone. While public transit is often constrained by fixed routes, driver availability, and vehicle scheduling, shared mobility’s “ondemand” access provides the flexibility that travelers need to access or egress from a bus or rail “trunk line.” Moreover, shared mobility provides an alternative to costly feeder bus services and land-intensive parking infrastructure. This paper discusses the history of shared mobility within the context of the urban transportation landscape, first in Europe and Asia, and more recently in the Americas, with a specific focus on first- and last-mile connections to public transit. The authors discuss the known impacts of shared mobility modes—carsharing, bikesharing, and ridesharing—on reducing vehicle miles/kilometers traveled (VMT/VKT), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and modal splits with public transit. The future of shared mobility in the urban transportation landscape is discussed, as mobile technology and public policy continue to evolve to integrate shared mobility with public transit and future automated vehicles.

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September 19, 2018