San Francisco, California, is at the forefront of the sharing economy. Being home to companies like Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Lyft, to name but a few, the city’s proximity to Silicon Valley’s hub of technology innovation has helped power its emerging scene of sharing startup companies.

Following the advocacy of companies such as IBM and Siemens, San Francisco is a leading “smart city,” and the city government is actively promoting San Francisco’s status as the epicenter of emerging high-tech sharing. However, San Francisco’s reliance on the private sector for funding its smart-city goals, has resulted in “limited service diversity in terms of social-welfare domains” in comparison with publicly funded efforts in Seoul, and a public-private partnership approach in Amsterdam.

golden-gate-bridgeThe scope of sharing innovation in San Francisco is wide. For example, BayShare member Airbnb created a new tool to allow fee-free accommodation listings in regions affected by a natural disaster in order to quickly deliver emergency housing assistance to displaced residents. Airbnb collaborated with San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management to standardise this tool and ensure that it could be activated in less than 30 minutes. BayShare was subsequently invited to join the San Francisco Disaster Council, working alongside local authorities and emergency service providers on the city’s disaster preparedness and resiliency plans.

San Francisco’s Vision

san-francisco-aerial viewThe city’s vision is to make more shared choices available so that people of all backgrounds can easily get around without needing to own a car. By promoting shared options, more people can access affordable, safe, clean and reliable transportation than ever before.

‘Our vision is less about the technology (which we care about deeply) and more about people, community and culture change. Technology enables. But it is our belief that values shape technology – not the other way around.’ – San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Shared Mobility Solutions: Uber, Lyft, CityCarShare, ZipCar, Getaround, Turo (formerly RelayRides)

Recently, through the incorporation of advanced information technologies and penetration of smart phones, shared mobility systems have seen exponential worldwide growth in terms of system size, membership and variety worldwide. Shared mobility systems increase mobility options in cities, altogether contributing to the reduction of private vehicle usage.

So why are there so many shared mobility solutions in San Francisco? To begin with, San Francisco’s transportation trajectory — one that is highly reliant on private automobiles — is unsustainable. The city has grown by 85,000 people since 2003 without making the necessary investments to improve the transit system. The city is also facing increased congestion, transit crowding and extreme competition for parking. With the population expected to grow by another 150,000 people by 2040, this is set to worsen.

The studies are clear: Car sharing reduces car ownership. san-fracisco-bridgeEach car-share vehicle is used by numerous people rather than one car serving one person or household. Because one car-share vehicle is accessed by many people, a car share’s parking space is used more efficiently, that is, by dozens of neighbours instead of one or two. Studies show that up to 14 cars are removed from an area for each available car-sharing vehicle. It is clear that both parking availability and traffic flow will improve.

San Francisco’s Goals Over the Next 3 Years

The power of a 10 percent shift, the local government has committed to pursuing the following goals with their partners over the three-year demonstration period:

  • Shift up to 10 percent of single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips to transit, shared and active modes;
  • Reduce transportation emissions 10 percent through electrification and demand management;
  • Reduce collisions and fatalities 10 percent leveraging their Vision Zero investments; and
  • Reduce the share of lower-income residents’ household income on transportation by 10 percent.