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Shared Mobility

The convergence of new technology and social networking that created the sharing economy is shaping major changes in transportation. Shared Mobility, where rides, cars, and bikes are shared among users, is helping more Americans lead “car-light” or “car-free” lifestyles.


Carsharing services, where people have access to a vehicle without having to own one, are changing the economic incentives related to driving behavior. With the majority of vehicle ownership costs being fixed and not tied to the actual number of miles driven, there is often little economic benefit for the average car owner to take transit or bike instead of drive. Carsharing, however, flips this equation by transferring most of the costs of driving from fixed to variable. With carsharing costs primarily based on distance driven, there is much more incentive for people to reduce overall mileage and to use alternate means of transportation.

Studies show that carsharing does reduce vehicle ownership and driving. Each carsharing vehicle replaces an estimated 9-13 privately-owned cars, and carsharing members have a 27% reduction in miles driven. Nearly a quarter of carsharing members sell their car after joining, and 25% postpone a planned purchase of a vehicle.

The most prevalent carsharing services are fleet-based services which provide either round-trip or one-way travel options. With roundtrip, customers pick up and return a vehicle to the same location and usually pay by the hour or the mile. Examples include Zipcar or City Car Share. One-way carsharing lets people use a car for a point-to-point trip.

A newer carsharing model is peer-to-peer, where people share the use of a private vehicle – usually managed by a third party. With services like Relay Rides or Get Around, car owners rent their vehicles out on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. The companies help match people to cars and some also provide independent insurance and 24-hour roadside support for drivers.

“Once a person becomes a car owner, economic incentives encourage him or her to use their vehicle as much as possible.”A New Way to Go, U.S. PIRG Report, 2013


Ridesharing includes carpooling, vanpooling, and real-time ridesharing services. These new services match drivers and passengers based on their destination. Employer-based ridesharing programs can be facilitated through companies like vRide or through organizations like commute.org. Uberpool and Lyftline are new ridesharing platforms still in the testing phase. With both services, users input their location and destination. The app creates a route and then matches people traveling the same route to be picked up by a Lyft or Uber driver. If the services cannot find a match, the passenger pays half the fare for a regular Lyft or Uber ride.

Transportation Network Companies

Transportation Network Companies (TNC) are services like Lyft and Uber that allow passengers to connect with and pay drivers through a mobile app. The drivers are typically using their own personal vehicle.

[smc-box]Electric Car Share

The French company, The Bollore Group, plans to expand its electric vehicle sharing program into the United States, with a scheduled 2015 rollout in Indianapolis. Their Paris program, Autolib’, debuted in 2012 and currently has 1,700 electric vehicles, 4,200 charging stations, and 37,000 members. For a monthly fee of $16, Autolib’ members can use a special card to access an electric vehicle at a carshare location and then drive the car to a charging station at one of the specified locations near their destination. The price for a 20-minute trip is approximately $4.50. The Indianapolis rollout will include 500 electric vehicles and 1,200 charging stations at 200 car-share locations and will cost an estimated $35 million. [/smc-box]


  • As of January, 2014, U.S. carsharing services had more than 1.2 million members with some 17 thousand vehicles. Nationwide, there were a total of 24 carsharing service operators.
  • Membership in carsharing services increased 23% from the year prior, while the number of vehicles increased 2%. The 2014 ratio for members to vehicles was 72.1.


Bikesharing provides a transportation option for people traveling intermediate-length trips in urban areas. These distances would be too long to walk, and taking a taxi or public transit may be too expensive or time consuming. Modern bikesharing programs use information technology (IT) based systems to rent bikes to members. People pay a membership fee and/or usage fee to rent the bike for a certain time period. They can pick up the bike in one location and drop it off at a location near their destination. The bikes usually have a location sensor to prevent theft and help with system management. The first IT-based bikesharing program started in France in 2005, with the first U.S. rollout in 2007. As of 2014, IT-based bikesharing systems are in place in 56 U.S. cities and two universities, with a total of 20,100 bikes and 2,000 stations. Worldwide, IT-based systems are in 712 cities, with a total of 806,200 bikes and 37,500 stations.

[smc-box]Charge Ahead California

In September, Governor Brown signed SB 1275, the “Charge Ahead California Initiative,” an ambitious legislation that seeks to put one million electric vehicles on the state’s roads within 10 years and help California meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. The bill is an important milestone not only in California but nationwide as it is the first law to promote the use of electric cars, trucks, and buses in support of a shift away from fossil fuels.

SB 1275 does the following:

  • Creates credit enhancements to help families without qualifying credit scores.
  • Includes income-based incentives for lower and moderate income families to scrap their older, polluting vehicles in favor or new or used hybrid or plug-in EVs or even go car free with transit vouchers.
  • Pilots carsharing programs in areas that lack sufficient public transportation networks.
  • Builds more charging stations in multi-unit residences throughout the state.
  • Continues the successful purchase and leasing rebate program but ties it to income and will gradually phase it out as the EV market expands and costs come down. [/smc-box]

Personal Mobility

Shared Autonomous Vehicles

With shared autonomous vehicles (SAV) people can use their smartphone to call a ride and get picked up by a driverless car that delivers them to their location. Since the average car is parked 90% of the time, shared driverless vehicles could not only provide more efficient transportation, they also could transform the commute into productive work time – allowing people to have their hands on their laptops or tablets instead of on the steering wheel. One SAV could replace an estimated 11 conventional household vehicles, freeing up parking spaces throughout neighborhoods and city streets. With automobile expenditures the second largest household expense after housing, SAVs could potentially provide a more affordable mobility option.

Some studies, however, show that vehicle miles traveled would actually increase as SAVs would be so inexpensive and convenient that more people would choose to drive in them, forgoing alternative transportation options. Some critics even argue that SAVs could make the need for public transportation obsolete and could even encourage people to live further from work and recreation.

But if SAVs are used mainly for short and intermediate-distance trips and people pay by the distance driven, they could complement mass transit by making it easier for people to get to and from transit stations. And, SAVs could actually replace transit in low-density, low-demand areas, where it can be very costly to run service.

Enter the idea of ubiquitous taxis ” summoned via smartphone or weird glasses ” that are so cheap they make car ownership obsolete…It’s a world in which algorithms for matching cabs with passengers will become crucial elements of everyday transportation, the way gas stations and parking lots are today.

Matthew Yglesias, Slate

Connected Vehicle Technology:

Connected vehicle technology uses an open-source wireless technology called Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) that lets vehicles communicate with each other (vehicle to vehicle) and also with the roadside (vehicle to infrastructure).

Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) technology is an anonymous, vehicle-based data exchange that would include information like position, speed, and location. V2V technology could detect hazards and send messages to vehicles such as emergency brake light warning, forward collision warning, and intersection movement assist. V2V technology could help eliminate an estimated 76% of crashes on our roadways, preventing tens of thousands of deaths and injuries each year.

Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology is the exchange of safety and operational data between vehicles and the highway infrastructure. With V2I, “smart roadways” could communicate with vehicles warning of accidents, weather incidents, unsafe driving conditions, or traffic congestion. The main goal would be to improve safety by mitigating 12% of crashes (mainly those not addressed by V2V technology), but additional benefits would be improved mobility and reduced congestion and emissions.

[smc-box]California Autonomous Vehicle Testing

In September 2014, the California DMV issued permits for autonomous vehicle testing to three companies. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi will each receive two permits. Mercedes Benz will be testing their vehicles along with connected vehicle technology and advanced traffic signals at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Google received 25 permits for its autonomous cars. The company has a new prototype vehicle it will be testing that has no driver and no brakes or steering wheel. Since California law requires a human operator be able to take control of an autonomous vehicle, Google will test this prototype on federal land at Moffet Field. [/smc-box]

Trends in Mass Transit

Trend 1: Mobile Ticketing:

In 2012, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) became the first transit system in the U.S. to take mobile payments. With the Mticket, customers use their smartphone to select their destination, pay the fare, and then show the conductor their virtual ticket. Since that time, transit systems in Austin, Dallas, Long Island, and Portland have also implemented mobile ticketing. Mobile ticketing is not only more convenient for many riders, it also provides transit systems with real-time ridership tracking and can help them plan routes and schedules to better meet the needs of customers.

Trend 2: Rise in Off-Peak Demand

Across the United States, public transportation systems have experienced growth in off-peak hours ridership, and transportation officials point to two main causes for the increase. Many workers, especially in the high-tech industry, are on flexible work schedules including weekends and late evenings, making the 9-5 workday somewhat out of date. In addition, the rate of car ownership is declining, especially for the millennial generation, leading to greater use of mass transit not only for commuting but also for social and recreational uses on evenings and weekends. For the month of October, 2012, BART’s off-peak ridership was up 14% from the same period the year prior, while Saturday ridership increased 21% (peak-period ridership for the same period rose 10%).

[smc-box]BART’s Metro Vision

BART has formulated its Metro Vision plan for meeting growing ridership demands now and in the future. The Metro Core market focuses on urban locations (currently San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley) with low rates of car ownership and higher transit use, where transit can be a viable option for all trips. In this area, BART is proposing more frequent all day service, including off-peak – a “show up and go” system. The Metro Commute market is more suburban with higher rates of car ownership. In these areas, transit is primarily used for peak-period work and school travel. Here, BART plans to have faster and more frequent commutes into regional job centers during peak-commute hours, while maintaining the current off-peak service frequencies. See more at: http://www.bart.gov/about/projects/future/faq[/smc-box]

Trend 3: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems combine the speed and amenities of light rail with the lower construction cost and smaller infrastructure needs of a bus system. The first BRT system opened in 1974 in Curitaba, Brazil, and currently BRT systems run in 186 cities worldwide, serving over 31 million passengers per day (62% of total passengers are in South America). Costs per mile of construction for a BRT system are approximately $25 million, versus $70 million for light rail and $200 million for heavy rail. Features of BRT include limited or skip stops; bus priority at traffic signals, enhanced stops with more passenger amenities, off-board fare collection, and dedicated bus lanes.

In San Mateo County, SamTrans is conducting a phasing study for a BRT line that would run down El Camino Real. With forecasted population and employment growth and plans for increased housing along El Camino Real, congestion is projected to increase in this area. A BRT system could help relieve this congestion by providing enhanced bus service at faster speeds and with shorter travel times. The Phasing Study will run through mid-2015 and will look at low-cost operational improvements as well as more capital-intensive improvements.

Other Bay Area BRT Projects:

  • In Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara/Alum Rock BRT line, running from the Eastridge Transit Center to the Arena Station in downtown San Jose, is in construction, scheduled to be running by fall 2015. This line will be followed by two other BRT projects: El Camino Real (Santa Clara County) and Stevens Creek.
  • In San Francisco, construction of the Van Ness BRT line is scheduled to begin in late 2015. The Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit is in the later planning stages, with construction scheduled to begin in 2017.
  • In the East Bay, construction will begin in late 2014 on a 9.5 mile BRT line running from the 20th Street Uptown Station in Oakland to San Leandro, with a scheduled service start in 2017. This system is estimated to provide 28% faster travel speed during afternoon rush hour and to help increase ridership.

Trend 4: High Speed Rail

High speed rail (HSR) systems are in operation in 20 countries worldwide – including Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Korea, Taiwan, and China. These systems provide clean, safe, and fast transportation linking major cities and regions. Worldwide, HSR systems are in development in 14 countries including Morocco, Russia, Poland, South Africa, India, and Mexico. The Chinese Railway Construction Corporation was recently chosen to build the Mexico project, a 130 mile system linking Mexico City to Quereteuro, with service estimated to begin in 2017.

China’s HSR system, the world’s largest with 6,800 miles of track, opened in 2007 and has trains that travel from 125 to 190 mph. China’s system connects all the major cities in the eastern part of the country, with plans to double the network in the near future. The 820 mile trip from Shanghai to Beijing (equivalent to the distance from San Francisco to Seattle) can be made in 5 hours. In Shanghai, there is even a maglev train, which is suspended above the tracks with a magnetic field, and can reach speeds of 270 mph. Maglev trains, while very expensive to build, can travel at even faster speeds than regular high speed rail trains and have lower maintenance needs.

In the U.S., the only portion of railway considered high speed is the Amtrak Acela line, running from Washington D.C. to Boston. Trains on this line can reach 150 mph, but they average closer to 70 mph with stops. Lack of political will and mistrust of federal government are cited as hurdles preventing nationwide HSR systems in the U.S. In spite of $9 billion in stimulus funds that were available for HSR construction, California, a state large enough to create its own system, is the only system being planned.

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, a bond measure to create funds for HSR. The system, which is expected to be open for service in 2029, has an estimated cost of $68 billion. Once operational, trains running 200 mph will travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours. . The total size of the system is expected to be 800 miles of tracks with service between 24 stations.

After a court ruling in fall 2014, the California High Speed Rail Authority is now able to sell $8.6 billion in bonds and begin construction. Earlier in 2014, the state legislature agreed on providing HSR with a steady revenue stream with funds from the cap and trade program. Currently demolition is in progress, with land being cleared around Fresno. By 2017, the first segment of the rail system – 130 miles from Madera to Bakersfield line is scheduled to be completed.

From San Francisco to San Jose, HSR and Caltrain will run as a blended system sharing the current two-track system. Caltrain Modernization will electrify and upgrade the tracks, making for cleaner, faster service, but also preparing them to handle high speed rail. Caltrain electrification is expected to be operational in 2019, with the blended system scheduled to be running by 2029.