PhillyCarShare: First-Year Social and Mobility Impacts of Carsharing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Clayton Lane

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - station, infrastructure - vehicle, land use - impacts, place - europe, mode - car


Vehicle miles of travel, United States, Station cars (Car sharing), Social impacts, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Mobility, Europe, Demographics, Convenience, Car sharing, Automobile ownership


One year into a carsharing program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, compelling evidence of reduced vehicle ownership, reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and social change was uncovered through member surveys and detailed usage data. Each PhillyCarShare vehicle replaced an average of 23 private vehicles. Members giving up cars overwhelmingly reported driving less and replacing automobile trips with a variety of modes (transit, walking, taxi, and to a lesser extent biking). However, members who simply gained access to cars used PhillyCarShare primarily to substitute for modes that most resemble driving (taxis, borrowing or renting, and to a lesser extent transit). The average monthly VMT increase of members gaining access to a car was limited to 29.9 mi, whereas the monthly VMT decrease of members who gave up a car appeared to be several hundred miles but not greater than 522 mi. After joining, PhillyCarShare members made travel decisions more judiciously, expressed greater awareness of transportation costs, and valued environmental friendliness far more than previously. Members also preferred residential locations near PhillyCarShare locations. Motivation for joining varied greatly by income, eventual change in car ownership, and age. Convenience was valued highly by all groups, especially former car owners. Affordability was usually second most important. Comparison with other U.S. carsharing organizations revealed advanced education to be the strongest demographic of membership, followed by nonauto commuting and living in small or nontraditional households. In contrast to Europe’s early members, American first adopters appeared more concerned with personal utility than social or environmental benefits; they were motivated more by convenience and less by affordability, possibly because of much lower costs of driving in the United States.