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CommuteCon 2018

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Finding Purpose in Shared Mobility: Shaping and Maximizing Societal Benefits

Susan A. Shaheen, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor and Co-Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center
University of California, Berkeley

Session Description

Susan Shaheen, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley and the co-director of UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, joined us to talk about shaping and maximizing the societal benefits of shared mobility. Her much-anticipated presentation focused on finding purpose in shared mobility by identifying and optimizing its positive impacts.

Shared mobility is defined as the shared use of a vehicle, such as a bicycle or automobile, that provides short-term access to a mode of transportation on an as-needed basis. Shaheen noted that many of the newest shared mobility platforms, including e-hailing services and peer-to-peer vehicle sharing, are being propelled forward by purpose-built information technology solutions. Established shared mobility modes, such as carpools and vanpools, are also increasingly being driven by IT innovations.

This strategy is showing many valuable benefits, including:

  • Lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Reduced private vehicle ownership rates
  • The emergence of pay-as-you-go vehicle usage alternatives, which are particularly valuable to students and lower-income households
  • The ability to enjoy the convenience of car travel without the full burden of ownership costs
  • Reduced traffic congestion
  • Reduced parking demand
  • Complementary relationships with public transit and active modes of commuting
  • Effective and convenient solutions to the so-called “first mile/last mile” issue

Shaheen also reviewed various recent shared mobility studies, which further break down and quantify the impacts of these strategies. One key finding is that pay-as-you-go vehicle services such as Zipcar are having a profound and positive impact on users’ quality of life, especially in central-western regions of the United States.

She also shared her thoughts on the future of shared mobility, which she believes will be driven by a convergence of mobile technology, vehicle automation, and vehicle electrification. This convergence is expected to enhance the safety profile of vehicle travel, all while bringing about further reductions in congestion, pollution, and GHG emissions. It will also continue to positively impact per-mile travel costs while downsizing the number of privately owned household vehicles and opening up urban parking facilities to other possible uses.

However, Shaheen also identified some possible challenges to the continued development of shared mobility, such as urban sprawl and the difficulties involved with enacting large-scale culture change. Her presentation cited the need for effective public policy to help address these issues and facilitate the increased adoption of shared mobility solutions.