Summit tackles rise of vehicle sharing in mainstream travel

Could the family car become passé? New forms of carsharing, bikesharing and other ridesharing services are a growing presence on city streets, and an upcoming summit aims to focus attention on how this industry will help shape the future of urban transportation.

Cyclists pass a Bay Area Bike Share docking station. San Francisco launched the pilot bikeshariing program in August. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency)

The Oct. 10-11 Shared-Use Mobility Summit is being organized by UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, or TSRC. It will bring together academics, advocates, entrepreneurs, policymakers, regulators and government officials to discuss the promise and perils of extending the “sharing economy” to urban transportation networks.

“With carsharing, bikesharing, and ridesharing rolling out in more and more cities around the country, a lively dialogue has begun about the legal and regulatory impacts and requirements for emerging transportation sharing options,” said TSRC co-director Susan Shaheen, one the world’s leading researchers on shared-use modes of transportation.

In September, the California Public Utilities Commission approved new regulations that require background checks, insurance and other safety measures for ridesharing companies such as Lyft and SideCar. The decision, strongly opposed by the state’s taxi industry, effectively gave such services a boost of legitimacy, putting peer-to-peer transportation into a newly created “Transportation Network Company” business category.

This week’s summit in San Francisco will be held at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District at 750 Kearny St., within easy access of public transit and numerous ridesharing hubs. Notably, the start of the summit coincides with a possible BART strike since Friday, Oct. 10, marks the end of the 60-day cooling-off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“The potential strike reinforces the need for a more diverse transportation network that can aid when there are surges in demand or unplanned situations, like natural disasters,” said Shaheen.

Edward Reiskin, San Francisco’s director of transportation and one of the scheduled speakers at the summit, said it is in the strong interest of government officials to be part of this discussion since these trends impact urban and regional planning goals for growth, traffic flow and greenhouse gas reduction.

“As a policy, San Francisco is aiming to decrease the number of trips taken in the city in single-occupancy vehicles,” said Reiskin. “We are excited at the innovative potential of new solutions, but need to ensure that anything that comes to San Francisco advances our transportation, safety and climate goals.”

Participants in the summit include Enterprise CarShare, an event co-sponsor; transit officials from Seattle, Chicago and other major metropolitan cities around the world; and executives from the shared transportation industry.