Assessing Viability of Carsharing for Low-Income Communities

Project ID: CTEDD 018-04 SG

Author(s): Kate (Kyung) Hyun, University of Texas at Arlington

Co-Author(s): Courtney Cronley, University of Texas at Arlington

CTEDD Funding Year: 2018 SEED Grant

Project Status: Complete

UTC Funding: $29,999.14

End Date: January 31, 2019


With the increasing benefits of car-share programs, it is important to understand how individuals characterize each service as well as their familiarity with the availability of programs in their locations. This information could be used to target services more effectively to those who already show evidence of adopting this form of transit, as well as more effectively reaching groups whom we would expect to benefit such as individuals who lack economic resources to own their own cars, but who need on-demand, door-to-door transportation.

This study aimed to identify the viability of car-sharing in transportation disadvantaged communities by assessing current implementations and accessibility to car-sharing. This study used a mixed methodology including mathematical modeling and qualitative focus group to understand whether car-sharing meets the mobility demands of low-income users.

First, the study found that the car-sharing (i.e., ZipCar) are implemented widely in the US and do not disproportionately serve a population such as high-income groups. The mathematical model developed based on National Household Travel Survey in 2017 showed that people who experience financial burden or who choose to walk or bike to reduce financial burden tend to use more car-sharing, whereas higher-income groups are less likely to use car-sharing than lower-income populations.

Another competing mobility option, ride-share for public usage, is shown to positively affect car-sharing usage. The study investigated perceptions, awareness, and willingness to use car-sharing by conducting focus groups with civil engineers, planners, and social workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Results showed that factors keeping low-income communities from using car-sharing include a lack of knowledge of car-sharing services, high costs, and technological barriers.

Overall, this study investigates the feasibility of implementing car-sharing as a socially equitable transportation option, particularly in transit-dependent low-income populations. The assessments and feedback from this study would bring broad impacts to prepare for the autonomous vehicle era as various shared transportation options including free-floating car-sharing, shared autonomous vehicles, ridesharing, and demand transit will be implemented soon.