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North American Carsharing: A Ten-Year Retrospective


Carsharing organizations (or short-term auto use) provide members access to a fleet of shared vehicles on an hourly basis, reducing the need for private vehicle ownership. This paper reflects a ten-year retrospective of carsharing in Canada and the United States (U.S.), including results from a 2008 operator survey. Since 1994, a total of 50 carsharing programs have been deployed in North America⎯33 are operational, and 17 are defunct. As of July 1, 2008, there were 14 active programs in Canada and 19 in the U.S., with approximately 319,000 carsharing members sharing over 7,500 vehicles in North America. Another six programs were planned to launch in North America by January 2009. The four largest providers in the U.S. and Canada support 99% and 95.2% of total membership, respectively.

In this ten-year retrospective, the authors examine North America’s carsharing evolution from initial market entry and experimentation (1994 to mid-2002) to growth and market diversification (mid-2002 to late-2007) to commercial mainstreaming (late-2007 to present). This evolution includes increased competition, new market entrants, program consolidation, increased market diversification, capital investment, technological advancement, and greater inter-operator collaboration. Ongoing growth and competition are forecasted. Rising fuel costs and increased climate change awareness will likely facilitate this expansion.

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