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Car sharing (Utrecht)

Utrecht

Utrecht is promoting car sharing, hoping that it will reduce private car use and car ownership in residential areas in the outskirts of the city.

Implementing sustainable mobility

Car sharing is clearly gaining momentum in Utrecht. The city facilitates car sharing initiatives with around 200 shared cars at the moment. This number has grown rapidly by approximately 30 percent over the past few years. On average, one shared car replaces three to five privately owned vehicles. Most carsharing users live in and around the city centre, particularly in neighbourhoods with paid and reserved parking spaces. Recently new markets were identified in the residential areas in the outskirt of the city. In these areas shared cars and peer-to-peer car sharing (rent your privat car) can replace also the growing number of second cars.
The main objectives of the measure are to:
• Maintain the growing uptake of shared cars;
• Have 400 more households apply for car sharing;
• Raise awareness of car sharing, address prejudices and misconceptions;
• Reduce private car mileage in urban and residential areas.

How did the measure progress?

Due to budget problems (finding public funding) the measure could only start at the beginning of 2010. The campaign was therefore delayed and started in June 2012 instead of August 2011. This implies that the impact evaluation is based on partial outcomes.
The evaluation strategy of this measure sought to focus on the number of Car Sharing users and on the degree of awareness among car users regarding Car Sharing system. A comparative analysis of these two indicators, measured before and after the campaign, allows concluding on the impact of the campaign on car users. Between June 2012 and August 2012, the number of car sharing members increased by 298. 13% of this growth (39 new members) could be directly linked to the campaign, as these members signed up through the campaign website.
One of the main barriers observed during the implementation process had been a disagreement between one of the Car Sharing providers and the other stakeholders involved regarding the special tariff proposed to the users in the frame of the campaign. The escalation of the conflict led to the postponement of the launch of the campaign. After negotiations, an agreement had been reached at the beginning of June 2012 and the measure could be implemented.
On the other hand, the cooperation between a communications agency and the host of a consumer platform contributed to the success of the implementation of the campaign and was identified as one driver in the process. This cooperation combined the promotional efforts and the strong bottom-up promotional strategy. Additionally, one of the Dutch car sharing companies, Greenwheels, worked on a pilot for the implementation of electric car sharing vehicles in Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam. The results had no direct impact on the campaign but resulted in a wider range of shared cars, thus making the fleet more attractive.
During the implementation process of the measure, recommendations can be highlighted as key success factors. The first recommendation is to perform a context oriented analysis in the earliest stage of the process to identify focused areas and target groups to address an effective campaign. The second recommendation is to actively involve citizens in the campaign and to promote a bottom-up communication process. Car Sharing users are relevant actors in promoting Car Sharing in their neighbourhood and community. The public authorities are no longer the dominant driver; instead citizens should be integrated in the process as partners who contribute to raise acceptance of Car Sharing among car drivers. Additionally, the city needs to cooperate with all companies to ensure that the market competition is not negated. Hence the city should take a moderating function.

What were the outcomes of the measure?

At the current stage of the process, the provisional extracted result is positive and allows forecasting an increase in the numbers of Car Sharing users at the end of the campaign. 75% of the activities are still in the implementation process and are foreseen to be accomplished in the first half of 2013. At the end of the campaign, final results will be drawn and further recommendations will be formulated. Nonetheless, this first evidence shows that the combination of a consumer platform that promotes sustainable projects by bringing people together (bottom-up) in cooperation with a communication agency for designing the campaign lay-out (top-down), gave “the best of two worlds” to the city of Utrecht. The current impact evaluation of the Car Sharing campaign is very promising and the success of the measure demonstrates the potential of transferability of the measure to a larger area, such as the Province of Utrecht.

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