Carpooling is defined as two or more people travelling together in a car (usually a car owned by the driver of the vehicle) to a shared destination, whereas car sharing allows different people access to the use of a fleet of vehicles by booking a vehicle for a defined period of time without the need to own one.
Currently, there are three main forms of car sharing:
- Station based. Registered users can pick up a vehicle in the decentralised stations (with reserved parking spots).
- Free floating. Cars are parked randomly on local streets rather than at fixed stations and are located by potential users through GPS. These ‘free-floating’ operations require no prior reservation and users are not required to register a return time when they take a car.
- One way. Customers can pick up a car at one station and return it to a different one.
Usually, car sharing schemes are electronically controlled, with 24/7 access, and offer a variety of vehicle types depending on the scheme. ‘Free floating’ and ‘one way’ normally provide small cars.
Car sharing services are not generally run by the city in which they operate, but even so, municipalities can play an important role in their promotion by creating a supportive atmosphere. Some of the actions that the local administration body could carry out are:
- setting up supportive infrastructure
- establishing appropriate policy and legislation to integrate car sharing into the city fabric
- integrating car sharing with public transport
- becoming a business customer of the local car sharing service
- creating public awareness and promoting the service
- establishing standards that operators must meet
- subsidising a car sharing operator to expand or accelerate the rate of growth.
Even if the car sharing scheme reduces car ownership and can change individuals’ transport choices, it is important that it does not replace public transport journeys.