Case study background: Carsharing

The following notes were prepared on the fly to guide my presentation as the “closing summary” I was invited to make at the closure of the Strasburg conference. I took it as my task to sum up a certain number of observations that the formal presentations and the lively exchanges over the day brought to mind. And then to round them out here with some other findings and recommendations that I hope will be useful to the carshare community in France. The presentation itself was in French, but if you turn to you will see an informal commentary in English to round out these bare notes.

1ères Rencontres nationales de l ‘autopartage.

Strasbourg, 12 -13 May 2011. Further information on the conference here.

Speaking notes for closing commentary. Eric Britton, World Streets

1. Introduction: The Culture of Carsharing

a. 2011 – 125th anniversary of the birth of the motor car
b. The path to sustainable mobility runs like this: Roads –> Vehicles –> People –> Culture
c. Note: Carsharing = “only” a 1% solution (but what a percent – indispensable, synergistic)
d. Strasburg – Pioneer for the New Mobility Agenda and Mobilité Durable
e. What is a cyclist” – The Copenhagen conundrum

2. 2011-2020: What do the next ten years have in store for us? (What we know for sure.)

a. World population reaches 7 billion (with specter of 10 billion by end of century)
b. So, we had better get a lot better at sharing (Unless we chose to live in a gated world)
c. Our collective aspirations and demand for quality mobility will not go down.
d. Aging, more fragile, less affluent, less able to drive population
e. Oil will be steadily more expensive and steadily harder to come by. (France will not join OPEC)
f. We will not be saved by technology – and in particular such technologies as electric cars, new fuels, hybrids, etc. will have no more than marginal impact
g. We will be quite broke in the next several years and thus will have to learn to get lots of high quality mobility per Euro spent.
h. We will have learn to work with what we have
i. There will be centers of excellence, which will be well worth understanding in depth
j. The New Mobility Agenda for a city will consist of an integrated bouquet of services differing considerably from city to city, but in virtually all cases there will be a role for carsharing

3. Reminder: ” We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think.”
( Statement made by the Nobel Prize winner Professor Ernest Rutherford, on taking over the quite broke Cavendish Laboratory in 1919, in the wake of the First World War)

4. Carsharing in France: 2000-2010

a. Opening, innovation, experimentation, diversity, fictionalization, reflection, adaptation, Communication
b. Gradual and now accelerating crescendo
c. Great idea: Label Autopartage Paris
d. Reality: Successes, half-successes, failures
e. Learning curve and sharing
f. Annual (almost) conferences (going back to first at OECD in 1999)
g. Recognition – “Proposition de la Loi sur Autopartage”

5. Carsharing in France: 2011 – 2020

a. My guess it will expand by at. least 10- times
b. We will see a great variety of types of organization
c. I do not anticipate a dominant supplier (I.e., the nation under the heel of Zipcar or any other.
d. The Paris Autolib pr will be a huge learning opportunity,.
e. Huge expansion of P2P carsharing
f. Continuous growth of “classic carsharing” (in all its variants)
g. Class carshare and P2P will come together in many places.
h. Carsharing will become the 1% solution
i. The neighborhood car (What does it mean?)
j. A key to the future will be the ability of all concerned to better share information and knowledge as to what is going on at the leading edge in France . . . and beyond.

6. Improving Knowledge-sharing in France (and beyond)

a. For carsharing — but also all the other kindred forms of new mobility
b. A quick tour of Wikipedia of key terms in key languages provides an interesting view on this collaborative learning environment that will be so important to support the better diffusion of the best ideas.
c. A French language “Wiki “on new mobility would be worth thinking about
d. Might be started by Club des Villes, GART and other players
e. Might benefit from an informal but not inefficient editorial panel
f. Certainly a role for integrating various tailored types of social network.
g. Might find itself usefully supported by something along the lines of the dedicated Italian collaborative blog – Nuova Mobilità at
h. Thank about sharing more broadly and interacting with other language groups and projects
i. Links to university and research programs, as well as projects

7. Slow Down:

a. The creation in steps of a “Code de la rue” is one of the most exciting, important, low cost and effective building blocks of sustainable mobility.
b. The current referendum in Strasburg to get massive public approval for the creation of a 30 kph policy on a substantial portion of all city streets.
c. For some encouragement on this, have a look at
d. May this excellent example be followed in cities across France and beyond

8. The benefit to society of one less car in the city

a. Carsharing reduces the number of cars that people need in that place, and at the same time significantly reduces the requirement for parking space.
b. It is not so hard to come p with a credible figure for the value to the community of one parking space saved. We need to know this number to make wise policy decisions.
c. Fewer cars, less traffic, sets off a positive spiral of benefits (which are so numerous and generally well known that I do not have to list here).
d. But we do not know thus far what is the value to society of these reductions.
e. This could be a major research task, with the objective of coming up with a rough but specific estimate, which ideally will be of a sort that can be fine tuned for time and place.
f. I propose that this important task not be treated a one more PhD topic but that it be given high priority so that even very rough numbers can be generated with reasonable confidence without delay.
g. This is, in my view, a very big number indeed – and until I see better I estimate the benefit of taking a car out of the traffic stream at € 1.00 per km. not travelled.
h. If you play with this indicator – or hopefully a better one — you will see that it generates very large scale benefit estimates. Once we know these, the public sector will understand better why it is worth investing money in all solutions that can help cut back traffic (but without reducing mobility or quality of life for all in the city)

9. iMobility – Bring the CIA in France

a. The key technology to the future of high quality transport is IT, used both for information and access purposes.
b. Thus I would like to call for a national program to create a Comprehensive Information Access system (CIA), the goal of which is to put the city mobility system in all its parts into the “pocket” of all citizens. The goal can be to get all the necessary information and logistics into mobile phones, internet, and public terminals.

10. Some last words on advancing the carsharing agenda in France

a. The main pieces of the puzzle are now pretty much in place. Now there is only the matter of execution.
b. The key lies in knowing and understanding the respective roles of he three key partners: System operators, customers, the city.
c. The first two are by now pretty much under control, but I note that the role of the city in most places is simply not active enough. I believe that this is because the decision makers, media and the general public do not fully appreciate the value of the contribution of a first rate carshare program
d. This is so central to success in the future, let me make it a final item on its own.

11. Key to the city’s strong role in the success of carsharing in the city

1. Take the time to inform themselves and all concerned about the real benefits of a good carsharing operation
2. Consult the leading sources of experience and expertise in France to benefit from their hard-earned competence.
3. Step back from the possibility of running such a system. Carsharing is not a competence of city government
4. Recognize and bring in, at least in the planning stage, all key partners
5. Do not try to decide about technology. This is not a demonstrated area of competence of the public sector. Instead set performance and environmental standards and let the best technologies win the day.
6. Create an operations framework to maximize inputs: Example Paris’s excellent “Label Autopartage”
7. Parking – Provision, economics, motives, enforcement (If you don’t get this right, your program will lag. There is no good reason for this. We know or at least can figure out in every case the value to the city of one parking place saved by carsharing.
8. Zoning
9. City, other government employees – promotion and facilitation
10. Leading by example

a. The mayor and all city officials, contractors, etc. will be registered and active carshare users.
b. There will be carshare operation in front of or close by all city facilities
c. All city fleets will be reorganized and run on a carsharing basis.

Thanks for your attention. This ran a bit longer than I had hoped, but this has been a very full two days and I wanted to be sure that I shared with you all what I have observed and learned from you. Let’s look at this all again next year. There will be a lot to report. Carsharing is not at all dead in France.

Eric Britton, World Streets, Paris

* Click here for collected papers and presentation of the conference.
And here for Strasbourg flash mob video.

Some references:
• For more on the Rencontres Nationales –
• World Carshare Forum –
• World Carshare Consortium –
• World Carshare Group on Facebook –
• World Streets on carsharing –

# # #

Two Carshare Maps with a message:

World: This first map shows the locations of the hits coming to the World Carshare Consortium site today at (Note there is very limited French consultation of this map)

France: Map showing French carshare operations in 2011:


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