By Robert Benner
A recent study out of Transportation Research Procedia has found that women are less likely than men to use carsharing services due to childcare, household duties, and the need to make “chain trips” across multiple destinations for a variety of errands. Even in Germany—the EU country with the highest rate of women working—childcare, child transportation, and household tasks still fall predominantly to women.
While free-floating carsharing is growing in popularity, researchers have found that its primary users have been college-educated men. Free-floating carsharing operations, such as Car2Go in the U.S., do not have fixed locations where the cars can be found. Users find the closest car by looking at a map on their mobile phones, and the cars can be left anywhere within the service area.
Especially when deployed in fleets of electric vehicles, carsharing can be a powerful tool to reduce car dependency, congestion, and emissions, but it is not yet popular among a broad demographic group.
Researchers aimed to understand why this discrepancy exists and asked if there were specific gender differences that led to this gap. To answer this question, the study tracked the transportation patterns of five women in Berlin, three of whom had children, over the course of one week and conducted qualitative interviews to understand how they made various modal choices throughout the study.
The study found that of the 292 trips during the week, only eight of those trips were “unchained” or had only one destination. The large majority of the trips required multiple stops for errands or other tasks. The need for multiple stops on each trip made it harder for the women in the study to consider carsharing as a viable transportation option, as they would have to find a new car for each leg of the trip.
Women in the study indicated that having children made carsharing a challenge as well. Women with children said they felt more comfortable either walking or driving when transporting their children, and no women took any trips with children on public transit over the course of the trip. But, while carsharing would help them feel more comfortable transporting their children as compared to transit, it still poses its additional problems. Women with children indicated they did not want to have to carry car seats to and from a car, especially if a car wasn’t available within a short walk, or if they would be picking up groceries they’d have to carry back home as well.
While this is only a short, small study, it identifies major issues for the adoption of carsharing services for women. This is a barrier that will grow as ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, gain in popularity and become an increasingly regular fixture in transportation networks. The same can be said of autonomous vehicles. As they grow, it will be important to ensure these vehicles and services are available and accessible for all users, regardless of gender or other factors.
Robert Benner is a Program Associate at Smart Growth America
By Robert Benner