Bremen aims to remove 6 000 cars from its streets by 2020 by encouraging 20 000 citizens to join the car-sharing programme. This would save 8 000 tonnes of CO2 a year and free-up over 30km of urban street space. The initiative has received international acclaim. It was for instance shortlisted for the 2013 ManagEnergy Local Energy Action Award.
In 2009 Bremen was the first city in Germany to pass a car-sharing strategy. The car-sharing scheme is part of efforts to transform the mobility system in favour of sustainable modes of transport. The city is currently in the process of developing a new sustainable mobility plan towards 2025. Active modes and the tram network will be key pillars. However, Bremen is well aware that cars will continue to play a role in the cityscape. The challenge is to make this role less prominent and change people’s behaviour in favour of a smarter use of the car through an attractive car-sharing scheme.
In 2003 the City of Bremen introduced the first on-street ‘mobil.punkt’ stations, nodes that connect cycling, public transport and car sharing. From then on, the car-sharing network was continuously extended. By 2009 over 5 000 users had subscribed to the scheme and by November 2013 the number had risen to 8 700. Users can choose from a pool of 200 shared cars of various sizes. These can be accessed at over 50 car-sharing stations that are spread across the city. The on-street ‘mobil.punkt’ stations are marked with pillars of 3 metres. This has made them a very visible symbol of a new mobility culture.
The proximity of stations and the convincing practicalities are the most important elements of the scheme. As fuel and insurance costs are included in the subscription, car sharing in Bremen is more cost effective than owning a car. A flexible online booking system, round-the-clock call centre and easy smart card access offer a maximum of flexibility and service to users. The scheme is managed by the private operator Cambio.
New housing developments can integrate car-sharing to reduce the number of parking spaces and consequently reduce the overall costs of new developments. Bremen’s slogan ‘use it, don’t own it’ is at the heart of a marketing campaign to convince citizens of the benefits of car-sharing.
The most important achievement of the scheme is a reduction in private car ownership. To date, every car-sharing vehicle in Bremen replaces 11 private cars, as surveys among car-sharing user show. As 15 per cent of CO2 emissions in the lifetime of a car are emitted in the manufacturing phase, residents have saved around 3 300 tonnes of CO2 annually by switching to car-sharing. This is expected to increase to over 8 000 tonnes as the scheme extends its reach with the introduction of 10 to 20 new car-sharing stations every year until 2020. The extension also aims to make the programme accessible to citizens living in peripheral areas of the city.
A recent study on car-sharing behaviour found that 50 per cent of new users owned a car before joining the scheme and only 13 per cent kept it – which means that 37 per cent replaced the private car with a shared car. Additionally, car-sharing users are more inclined to use alternative modes of transport, use more public transport and rail and also cycle more. If Bremen reaches its goal to reduce the number of privately-owned cars by 6 000, the need for street parking and expensive underground car parks would be reduced. Over 30 km of urban street space could be freed up to widen pavements, install more bike racks and create more green spaces. In total, this will lead to better commuting conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.
A key challenge for Bremen was posed by German legislation. Despite good experiences with car sharing, there is not yet a general legal framework for on-street car-sharing stations. Another issue is that even though there is strong political will to extend car-sharing stations to more peripheral areas, the business case is more complicated. Overall, awareness of car sharing improved in recent years but the details of practical implementation remain challenging.
Despite these obstacles, Bremen sees car-sharing as a key element in the future of urban mobility. Joachim Lohse, Bremen’s senator for the environment, urban development and transport, said: 'Car sharing is a unique chance to reclaim street space for better purposes than parking cars. That’s why the City of Bremen adopted a strategy to integrate car sharing into its parking management and sustainable mobility strategies—to make our city a very liveable place now and in the future.’