In my previous post, I discussed the growing popularity of bike sharing programs in cities across the country. Two other transportation elements of the sharing economy are car sharing and ride sharing. Both trends have popped up in the past several years, and have seen growing popularity particularly within the last year. Car Sharing For Mobility
Car sharing allows users to essentially rent a car, but unlike a typical car rental experience, people can reserve a car for a short period of time, usually at an hourly rate. One of the best-known examples of a car sharing company is Zipcar, which was recently acquired by Avis Car Rental Company. To be able to use the vehicles, you must apply for membership, and once approved are then able to reserve a vehicle for however long you need it. This gives people who do not own a personal vehicle, the option of being able to use a car for everyday errands like grocery shopping, without the need to pay for ownership, maintenance, or insurance.
Creating Social Connections Through Ride Sharing
Ride sharing connects people who own cars with people in need of a ride. Smartphone apps like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are some of the service providers facilitating the connections between drivers and riders. These apps allow regular people to become drivers (after an application process) and use their own cars to provide rides to anyone requesting service through the app. Drivers and riders create accounts online and are able to select and rate each other on how well they either drove or rode. One perk of the app is that passengers are able to view the current location of their driver on a map, as shown in the picture to the right, to further improve convenience.
The beauty of the app is that it allows you to rate drivers and passengers, and choose drivers or passengers based on their ratings. Additionally, passengers also have to create an account and input credit card information before catching a ride. Both of these aspects reduce the risk of safety issues. Beyond the transportation benefit of ride sharing, there are also social benefits and a sense of community that comes from sharing rides and getting the chance to connect with others you may never have encountered otherwise.
The Difficulties of Ride Sharing in Florida
Uber also offers an additional service, called UberX, which allows users to order premium car service using professional drivers. Riders typically pay a base fare and a per-mile or per-minute fee, just like they would with a taxi. The difference from a traditional cab is that UberX connects riders with premium vehicles, wait times are usually shorter, and in most cities the fares are comparable or even cheaper than a cab.
Last summer during the Republican National Convention, UberX attempted to provide its service to conference attendees. However, the difficulty of providing this service in Tampa was quickly realized. Due to a Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) rule, any private service, premium vehicle must charge a minimum of $50 per ride, no matter how short the trip. Other cities in Florida have similar issues with regulations, such as Miami and Jacksonville which also have arcane laws that prevent the usefulness of ride sharing. However, Jacksonville City Council recently approved overturning its law, and Miami is getting closer to removing its legislative road block.
Florida Senator Jeff Brandes and state representative James Grant are considering abolishing the Hillsborough PTC through legislation, so that services like UberX can be usable in Tampa. While the PTC was setup to provide oversight on the taxi industry, it has snowballed into a barrier to transportation options for Hillsborough County residents, and the role of this commission is in need of a re-evaluation. At the heart of the issue is enabling Tampa to have more transportation choices, especially because it is a city with so few choices to begin with. The next few months will decide the fate of this useful service in Tampa.
The Sharing Economy
Bike sharing, car sharing, and ride sharing are only a few aspects of the sharing economy. The sharing economy is an economic trend gaining momentum rapidly since the economic recession and aided by the continued prevalence of the internet as a social link. The implications of this shift in the economy are only beginning to come to the surface as the trend evolves, which will be the topic of my next post.
–Alana Brasier, Cities That Work Blog