Authors: Susan Shaheen, PhD, Nelson Chan, Helen Micheaux
Date: May 2015
Abstract: Classic roundtrip carsharing has been documented as a strategy to reduce car ownership and vehicle miles/kilometers traveled in urban areas. The expansion of carsharing and other forms of shared-use mobility have led to a growing interest in understanding the latest models. In recent years, one-way carsharing has gained momentum across the globe with 18 operators providing services in ten countries worldwide. One-way carsharing does not require its users to return the vehicle to the same location from which it was accessed (in contrast to roundtrip carsharing). Users typically pay by the minute versus the hour and do not require a reservation. There are two one-way models: free-floating and station-based. Free-floating carsharing allows vehicles to be picked up and left anywhere within a designated operating area, while station-based requires users to return vehicles to an available station. In Fall 2013, the authors conducted a survey of 26 roundtrip and five one-way carsharing operators in the Americas (U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil) to understand their perspectives on one-way carsharing and its future. Almost 70 % of roundtrip operators viewed one-way carsharing as a complement to roundtrip carsharing, while 19 % viewed it as a competitor. Twelve percent perceived it as both a complement and competitor. Operators noted public transit, smartcard, and electric vehicle integration as key to this model’s expansion. Half of respondents believed one-way and roundtrip carsharing have similar social and environmental impacts. Given limited understanding of its impacts, more research is needed to document the benefits of one-way carsharing and to help inform policymaking and urban mobility.