Highlights from Transportation Research Board Meeting

Earlier this month, seven delegates from the CarSharing Association participated in committee meetings at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

At the Shared-Use Vehicle Public Transport Systems subcommittee meeting, Susan Shaheen provided updates from the Shared Use Mobility Summit, which was held October 10-11 in San Francisco. Key takeaways from the October summit included the need for public subsidies, industry standards and self-regulation instead of government intervention, parking and insurance issues, integration with public transit and privacy and confidentiality of member-driver and operator data.

At the “Innovations in Shared-Use Mobility and Transportation Demand Management” workshop, Shaheen gave a short presentation on the definitions of shared-use mobility. She described how “blurring the lines” between different forms is problematic to both academic research and public policy. In the past, there has been debate about the definition of “car sharing” and whether new forms (one-way, free-floating, peer-to-peer, hourly airport rentals, etc.) should be considered as car sharing.

A panel that included lawyers from Lyft and Sidecar and the CEO of Carma discussed the use of the term “ridesharing.” In the past, the definition has been synonymous with carpooling and vanpooling and the driver couldn’t charge more than his/her operating costs.

But new entrants into the scene (e.g. Lyft, Sidecar, UberX) are attempting to redefine ridesharing. In their business model, drivers pick up passengers and take them to their destination much like a taxi driver does. The rates charged are sufficiently high so the driver will earn money above his/her vehicle operating costs — even after the web-based platform takes their cut of revenues. These businesses have been defined as “transportation networking companies” (TNCs) by the California Public Utilities Commission. Last year, CPUC introduced new rules to regulate and level the playing field with traditional taxi operators.

Susan Shaheen, Sharon Feigon and Jason Pavluchuk are planning the next Shared Use Mobility Summit, which will take place June 10-11, 2014, in Washington, D.C. This summit will focus on U.S. Transportation Policy. It was noted that changes are needed to shift funding away from highways and infrastructure (supporting privately-owned vehicles) and toward public transit and more efficient shared-use systems.

The Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting includes all forms of transportation including air, marine, rail, highways and public transit.

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