Urban growth creates rising demand for car sharing

November 07, 2016

The scale of population growth in cities will create increased demand for car sharing and other mobility services to avoid roads becoming gridlocked, experts claim.

According to a forecast by the United Nations’ Population Division, the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas rose from 30% in 1950 to 54% by 2014. It will continue rising to 66% by 2050.

As the population grows, road space remains the same. This will increase demand for services that share roads more efficiently.

The TU-Automotive Conference in Munich, Germany, this week heard how population growth is changing the way cities approach transport.

In London, the current population is at a record level of 8.8 million, but it will have increased by more than 1 million by 2030.

Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at Transport for London (TFL), said: ‘Every week the population of London grows by two double-decker buses [about 100 people], but we have constrained road space. We have 31 million journeys on our networks every single day.’

The biggest challenge is the private car, he said, which accounts for 55% of trips, but vehicle occupancy is just 1.4 people on average. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of car trips take place with just one person in the vehicle.

He said: ‘We want to know how we can make that more efficient.’

The answer presents challenges and opportunities for carmakers, as London ‘bears down on ownership’.

A mobility hierarchy puts car ownership at the bottom, with shared vehicle services in the middle, ranging from car sharing to buses, and finally cycling and walking at the top.

The aim is to focus on services that make efficient use of road space. Hurwitz added: ‘If it will take people out of private cars, if it will make people travel in a more efficient way, in a lower-emission way, those are positive opportunities. We just need to shape the regulations and to shape the policy incentives to make sure it happens in that way.’

The conference heard that growing demand for car sharing services could simply add to congestion problems without careful management.

Reinhard Birke, chief executive of Upstream, part of Vienna’s public transport system, warned that car sharing services would not solve urban mobility problems if they were not managed correctly.

He said: ‘We are transporting 440 million people underground each year. If the prices of on-demand car mobility drop to near zero, as is predicted some big companies, then most likely those people will come up to the surface and will not ride the metro anymore and we will have a big problem.’

However, mobility service providers argue that their products decrease congestion and enable more effective movement of people, which would allow any transfer between road and rail services.

Michael Knudsen, BMW head of mobility services, said that in high-density areas of a city at peak time, about 30% of the traffic is drivers looking for a parking space.

Christoph Weigler, general manager for Uber Germany argued that 30% of land is dedicated to storing parked cars that can be used for as little as one hour per day.

More on the future of mobility…

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