Promoting the cool factor of carsharing

‘Don’t show your wealth, show that you are smart.’ Mobility experts Michael Glotz-Richter and Rebecca Karbaumer of the City of Bremen explain why a change of mindset is essential in the transition from individual car ownership to carsharing schemes. The SHARE-North project trailblazes advanced carsharing schemes in the North Sea Region.

The City of Bremen leads the project SHARE-North that aims to create a breakthrough for advanced shared mobility solutions in the North Sea Region. It builds on the success of the previous CARE-North project, which launched a highly successful ‘mobile hubs’ (mobil.punkte) shared mobility scheme in Bremen. The initiative was widely recognised and in 2010, the City of Bremen was selected as the Urban Best Practice Example at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition.

Project manager Rebecca Karbaumer explains that the concept is based on careful user needs analyses. ‘When planning new mobile hubs, we spend a lot of time going out to the neighbourhoods and s engaging stakeholders such as the elected neighbourhood parliaments, emergency and trash collection services, and potential carsharing users and providers), ‘ she says. ‘For example, we found that proximity of carsharing stations is a key convenience factor – many small mobility hubs often work better than a few large ones’.

Mobile hub in Bremen. Photo: City of Bremen.

The mobile hub system is built with advanced technology that creates a smooth customer experience from booking to payment as well as a viable business model for the companies running the carsharing services. The hubs are easily accessible, highly visible and often link to public transport.

In just a few years, Bremen has demonstrated the value of integrating advanced shared mobility concepts in city planning, with the local authorities overseeing and promoting the scheme. Today, Bremen boasts over 100 carsharing stations, 30 of which are mobile hubs (mobil.punkte), with over 14,000 people regularly using more than 340 carsharing cars – and with numbers growing. A recent study shows that the system has reduced the number of privately-owned cars on the roads of Bremen by more than 5,000.

Overcoming the mental block

Michael Glotz-Richter has played a vital role in the shared mobility venture of Bremen, knocking on many doors to make it happen. And he has taken his own medicine – he has not owned a car for the past 12 years and is a happy user of Bremen’s carsharing system. ‘Contrary to what most people think, it really is very convenient! For example, I have no hassle with winter tyres, insurance or car maintenance. There is a mobile hub close to my home  where I can choose from 4 different shared cars,’ he points out. ‘Also, I cycle and walk more and get more healthy exercise.’

The main obstacle to expanding the scheme further is attitude, says Mr Glotz-Richter:  ‘You must take human nature into account. It can be risky business to touch the holy grail of car ownership because cars are much more than transport. We use them to present ourselves and who we are. We all grew up with heroes like James Bond and their fast cars as our role models. And you rarely see any parking problems in Hollywood movies!’

Congestion and parking problems are daily realities in many cities.

To make the transition to shared mobility, it must become the smart, convenient option, he says.  ‘We need to convey that well-designed sharing systems do not limit personal freedom – in fact they open more options. To convince people, it’s better to focus on the cost-saving and convenience factors than on the environmental benefits.’

This is what the SHARE-North project is all about. It aims to spread the idea of smart shared mobility solutions, using the power of the positive example and effective communication methods. As the concept is taken up by different cities, new ideas and designs are added.

Transnational cooperation the key to success

The project and several of its partners were involved in the launch of a Green Deal with the Flemish government. The Green Deal Shared Mobility was signed by more than 100 signatories in Flanders, representing a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

Signing the Flemish Green deal. Photo: Autodelen.net

Inspired by a similar Green Deal in the Netherlands, the Flemish Green Deal aims to accelerate the growth of shared mobility (e.g. car-sharing, carpooling and bike-sharing) in Flanders. The Flemish SHARE-North partners Autodelen.net and Taxistop have also launched the “mobipunt” concept in Flanders which extend the mobile hubs concept to include, for example, carpool parking spaces, shared cargo bikes, and wireless hotspots. The first mobile hubs like this have already been implemented in Flanders and many more are in planning.

On 8 May, the city of Bergen, Norway, launched their first mobile hubs. Bergen has expanded the original concept to include municipal services such as trash collection and charging of electric vehicles.

Inauguration of a mobile hub in Bergen, Norway, in April 2018. Left: Rebecca Karbaumer. Centre: Lars Ove Kvalbein of Bergen Municiipality. Right: Michael Glotz-Richter. Photo: SHARE-North.

The SHARE-North project has also set up living labs at business parks, fostering initiatives to promote green transport solutions in Belgium and the Netherlands. Its UK partner West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has developed an approach to creating shared travel plans at workplaces which has expanded to ten sites in the West Yorkshire area. Over 380 businesses have already joined WYCA’s Travel Plan Network, more than 50 of those joining in the first half of 2018 alone!

With slogans such as ‘use it, don’t own it’, the SHARE-North team apply a wide range of marketing and communication techniques to reach their goals. Examples include a shared mobility manual for municipalities, city campaigns and special events. ‘We can do all this because the North Sea Region Programme enables projects to be creative,’ notes Ms Karbaumer.

SHARE-North’s partners Taxistop and Autodelen.net initiated the ‘Shared mobility rocks’ event, organised in Alst, Belgium jointly with two other North Sea Region projects and two Horizon 2020 projects.

The transnational partnership is instrumental in creating the necessary step-change, she explains. ‘We can create stronger visibility by promoting and building on each other’s concepts – even the branding is being shared! For example, Bergen uses the Bremen signage and a Dutch-developed road pictogram. The Dutch pictogram is also being trialled in Bremen.’

Changing the outlook

Looking at current trends, the future of shared mobility looks bright. Mr Glotz-Richter notes that carsharing is spreading across Germany – currently it is found in over 600 cities and towns. The same trend is seen in other countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, France, and Italy, while Eastern Europe is just starting.

‘The nice idea of individually owned cars is really a deadlock, a blind alley. It leads to pollution, congestion, and many other problems. There is no way of escaping this if everyone has to have their own car,’ he says.

He predicts shared mobility will continue to gain ground, leading to a mental transition: ‘In 25 years’ time, when watching today’s movies, people will say, “how crazy these people were, going around in their own cars! It’s so vintage!” By then, using individual cars will simply not be in vogue anymore.’

Rebecca Karbaumer and Michael Glotz-Richter next to a promotional poster highlighting the convenience of using Bremen’s carsharing scheme. Why not relax in your garden instead of washing your car or changing its tyres? Photo: SHARE-North.

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