A recent study indicates that thousands of Seattle drivers may have given up their privately-owned cars in favor of car-share services.
As many as 9,100 Seattle-car share members have ditched their personal vehicles and opted to buy into the service, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation and a recent survey conducted by the University of California Berkeley. The “free-floating car share survey” is an annual study of how car shares are being used in the city, and the recent data is from the 2015 survey.
The referenced 9,100 amounts to 14 percent of all car share members in Seattle — about 65,000. Half of those members — 4,550 — specifically said that their decision to ditch their personal vehicle was directly influenced by joining the car-share service.
Car-share services, such as Car2Go or Zipcar, allow members to locate the nearest car — shared among all members — using a smartphone app, and then drive it for whatever their needs are. When finished, the members just park the car and walk away.
This could come as good news to other Seattle drivers, as author and tech entrepreneur Tony Seba pointed out to the Seattle business community earlier this year — one car-share vehicle generally serves about 15 members. That means fewer cars on the road, or parked along it, at any given time.
The desire to trade privately-owned cars for transportation services also echoes an argument that Seba promotes — that we are in the midst of a market disruption that will change driving habits from private to sharing. Specifically, Seba points to ride shares such as Lyft and Uber, and car shares such as Car2Go and zipcar. He believes these services will eventually replace the majority of privately-owned vehicles on the road.
Also according to the city’s data, the car-share vehicles have taken up less than 5 percent of available parking spaces on Seattle streets. These shared cars also don’t spend much time parked either, generally staying parked for an hour or less at a time.
Given this information, the City of Seattle says that it has no intentions of capping the number of car-share vehicles on its roads. The city cites additional research from the Shared-Use Mobility Center and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network that compares Seattle to Washington DC. The nation’s capitol has about 30 car-share vehicles per 10,000 residents, while Seattle may have room to grow with 15 car-share vehicles per 10,000.
And more car shares are on the way. BMW is poised to launch its own car-share service in Seattle with an all electric-vehicle fleet.