Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding

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Authors: Susan Shaheen, Nelson Chan, Apaar Bansal, Adam Cohen

Date Published: November 3rd, 2015


Shared mobility – the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other mode – is an innovative transportation strategy that enables users to gain short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis. The term shared mobility includes various forms of carsharing, bikesharing, ridesharing (carpooling and vanpooling), and on-demand ride services. It can also include alternative transit services, such as paratransit, shuttles, and private transit services, called microtransit, which can supplement fixed-route bus and rail services. With many new options for mobility emerging, so have the smartphone “apps” that aggregate these options and optimize routes for travelers. In addition to innovative travel modes, new ways of transporting and delivering goods have emerged. These “courier network services” have the potential to change the nature of the package and food delivery industry. Shared mobility has had a transformative impact on many global cities by enhancing transportation accessibility, while simultaneously reducing driving and personal vehicle ownership.

A number of environmental, social, and transportation-related benefits have been reported due to the use of various shared mobility modes. Several studies have documented the reduction of vehicle usage, ownership, and vehicle miles or kilometers traveled (VMT/VKT). More research is needed, nevertheless, to further understand impacts on a city and regional level and across the wide range of shared mobility modes.

Shared mobility could also extend the catchment area of public transit, potentially playing a pivotal role in bridging gaps in existing transportation networks and encouraging multi-modality by addressing the first-and-last mile issue related to public transit access. Furthermore, shared mobility could also provide economic benefits in the form of household cost savings, increased economic activity near public transit stations and multi-modal hubs, and increased access.

This white paper includes an introduction and background to different types of shared modes, as well as smartphone-based trip planning apps that can facilitate access to public transit and shared mobility services. This paper also notes where potential benefits of shared mobility could align with the new mission of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is to “Provide a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability” (Caltrans, 2015a). We conclude the paper with a summary and provide an appendix with a glossary of terms and a list of the shared mobility models, including a range of companies in each sector.



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November 3, 2015