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Is Car Sharing a “Fifth Mode” of Transportation?

Transportation Planner Jeremy Finkleman conducts first in depth study on One-Way Car Sharing in Metro Vancouver

Jeremy at the recent Car Sharing Association Conference held in Vancouver

If you ask Jeremy Finkleman what’s on his mind these days, he has two priorities: Car sharing, and his new baby, 6-month-old Shiri.

Metro Vancouver is widely considered to be a North American leader in car sharing and Jeremy, and a small team recently performed the first comprehensive analysis of car sharing in the region.

Jeremy says he’s passionate about measuring the usage and effects of car sharing for a few reasons. First, because he believes it’s another mode of transportation that’s emerging in the urban transportation ecosystem (and a largely overlooked one at that).

Second, it’s because he believes car sharing supports the broader social good and is a positive element in our communities—the community his daughter will grow up in.

Car sharing reduces the number of vehicles on the road, supports a vehicle free lifestyle, and increases transportation choices in general. But it won’t work everywhere, Jeremy says. His study was crafted to quantify and understand what works and doesn’t with this new mode of transportation, and he and his team have already begun sharing their findings with municipal staff and transit agencies around the province.

“I’m an analytical type of guy,” says Jeremy. “For me, it’s all about data. I scoured the research on car sharing and there’s just very little out there on the operational patterns of one-way car sharing. I felt if we at Urban Systems could get out ahead of the game with this we could position ourselves in what I think is an emerging market. We put quite a bit of time into learning more about the ways that this can really work for a community, and learning where it might not work.”

A Rich Source of Data

Jeremy and his team built off of research conducted by Metro Vancouver last year that gathered evidence from discussions with car share providers and two online surveys, which garnered over five thousand responses.

The Urban team then proceeded to use geo-snapshots of Car2Go’s publicly available real time vehicle location information. These snapshots record the precise latitude/longitude of available vehicles by license plate at various time intervals throughout the day. The data that emerged revealed system usage patterns, average trip distance, vehicle availability and more.

Here are some highlights from Jeremy’s recent presentation at the Car Sharing Association Conference held in Vancouver in late September.


Some Surprises Along the Way

With so much data to look at, some clear patterns began to emerge, and some of them held surprises. Jeremy says that once they began to parse the data, they started to see how cars were moving across the network, where they gathered, and what a typical trip distance was.

It’s important to note a distinction between two types of car share services—there are “two way” car sharing services, operated in Vancouver by Modo and ZipCar, where vehicles have a designated parking space, and must be returned to its home spot and “one way” car sharing services, operated in Vancouver by Car2go and EVO, where you can drive anywhere within the service area, park, and leave the car there.

“We found that the travel patterns for these two kinds of trips are entirely different. Other studies suggest that two way services tend to be used predominantly for leisure purposes. However, from our observations, one way car share appears to be used more for commuting purposes. We see significant spikes in the morning and afternoon peak hours, similar to what we would see for a typical trip profile along an urban bus route. We also observed where vehicles are located in the middle of the night. At the end of the work day they are being organically driven to a particular set of locations, typically in relatively dense urban neighbourhoods, about 2-3 kilometres from the downtown core, despite the fact that the service area extends to North Vancouver and Richmond.”

An average driving or transit trip in the City of Vancouver is around 7-8 kilometers, a biking trip around the 4 kilometer range, and a walking trip is 1-2 kilometers. Jeremy and his team found that the average distance for a one way car share trip is around 4 kilometers, similar to an average bike trip. “This starts to paint the picture as to where these cars are being used, and what they’re being used for,” he says. “It speaks to the types of people and neighbourhoods that are attractive to these services.”

There has already been a lot of interest in Jeremy’s research. His goal is to launch a car share consultancy, which would work with municipalities and transit agencies to help understand where investments into car sharing might make sense.

“This type of information is extremely valuable,” he says. “It allows us to have meaningful conversations as consultants with cities and suburbs across Canada and the US. This to me is a major untapped market.”

About Jeremy Finkleman

Jeremy is a transportation planner, originally from Kelowna, who has no problem filling his free time with activities and family. He loves hanging out at the beach (he’s an avid swimmer) hiking and playing the keyboard—ask him about the band he and other Urban team members have formed!

He started working with Urban Systems in Kelowna and did his Masters in Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo. When his wife wanted to be in a bigger city they packed up and made the big move to Vancouver. Six months ago they had their first daughter, Shiri, who is he says, an absolute angel. “She’s the absolute best – your priorities change so much, it’s cliché but it’s so unbelievably magical to spent that time with her and see her change and develop.” Jeremy says he’s always been passionate about good transportation, and loves making a difference.

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