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SXSW Eco “Urban Myths and Urban Mobility” Panelist Asks: What’s Really New?

SXSW Eco “Urban Myths and Urban Mobility” Panelist Asks: What’s Really New?

SXSW Eco logoST. LOUIS (September 24, 2014) – Next month’s SXSW Eco conference line-up includes a panel discussion – “City Transit 411: Urban Myths & Urban Mobility” – featuring Ryan Johnson, vice president of Enterprise CarShare, Rideshare and Zimride, along with representatives from Getaround and the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

This diverse panel, moderated by environmental journalist Jim Motavalli, will discuss new transportation options available in urban markets and the role that public and private transportation providers play in meeting demands for sustainable mobility. To preview what promises to be a lively and provocative debate, Johnson has posted a blog on the sxsweco.com site, in which he urges public-policy leaders to focus on the service being provided rather than just the mechanism being used to arrange transportation. Johnson’s personal commentary was published today:

What’s Really “New” in Urban Mobility?

“Zimride. Uber. Getaround. It seems that every few months a new idea develops to make local transportation even more efficient and affordable for city dwellers. However, many of these so-called “new” transportation models are actually just variations on three basic services that have been offered – and effectively regulated – for decades.

Car Rental: When an individual or business permits consumers to temporarily use vehicles it owns in exchange for payment, that’s car rental. Regardless of whether the transaction is for an hour or a week, or whether it’s conducted in person or digitally, a consumer is entitled to state-approved disclosures and protections when renting a vehicle.

Ride-Sharing: When multiple individuals find each other, and agree to share the cost of their trip, that’s ride-sharing. This service continues to be regulated at the state level by minimum automobile insurance, private passenger vehicle safety and personal driver’s license requirements. If a rented or leased vehicle is involved, the state’s rental and leasing regulations also apply.

For-Hire Vehicles: When consumers pay a for-profit third-party for a ride between two points, they’re using a for-hire vehicle. An organization or person being paid to transport others has a unique set of obligations, the most important of which is public safety. For example, state taxicab regulations historically have focused on safe vehicles and competent drivers.

So what’s really “new?” The increasingly technology-driven way consumers engage in ride matching, a.k.a. the process of connecting individuals to other individuals or businesses for one of the above services. In my opinion, ride matching alone doesn’t necessarily require regulation. But some policymakers believe transportation network companies, which use technology-based systems to conduct ride matching for a fee, likely do.

That’s why it’s critical to look beyond the mechanism for arranging the transportation and identify the actual type of service being provided, so the public, legislative and legal debates – from California to Pennsylvania – are as well informed as they are provocative. We’ll be exploring this topic further during the City Transit 411: Urban Myths & Urban Mobility panel at SXSW Eco. I hope you can join us.”

Johnson’s blog post reflects Enterprise’s intuitive neighborhood business model – which has been delivering transportation alternatives right where people live and work since 1957, and is an early example of today’s “collaborative consumption” trend. In fact, in 1997, Enterprise Rent-A-Car trademarked the term Virtual Car®, after recognizing the strength and energy of local service, regardless if it is for an hour, a day, a week or longer.

Today, Enterprise CarShare operates in nearly 20 major markets, including New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Toronto. The service is also available on more than 80 university campuses, and 40 government and business campuses in North America. As a member of the CarSharing Association, Enterprise CarShare offers hybrid, plug-in and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Follow @ryansvenjohnson on Twitter to view updates from the SXSW Eco panel on Oct. 7.

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