A brief history of car sharing
Part II: Car Sharing 2.0 Series
Car sharing reportedly began in 1948 when a housing cooperative in Zurich Switzerland began a small car share arrangement. In the 1970's and 1980's, more ambitious car sharing projects were launched in France and Amsterdam but these early projects lasted only a few years.
Re-emerging in the 1990's, small car share systems in Switzerland and Germany experienced a slow growth. StattAuto in Germany is credited with leading the way to the first programs in the United States by showing early success and growth within a well-structured business model.
Carshare Portland is recognized as the first official car sharing operation in the United States. Portland resident and car sharing expert (and editor of the excellent CarSharingUS blog) Dave Brook launched Carshare Portland in 1998 with one car and a few neighbors and the operation eventually grew to about 20 cars. In 2000, a Boston couple started Zipcar. Seattle's Flexcar was also formed in 2000 and eventually bought Carshare Portland and in late 2007 Flexcar and Zipcar agreed to merge.
It's estimated that 600 cities around the world support successful car sharing operations. In Germany alone, car sharing operates in over 150 cities and some European operations, like Mobility CarSharing in Switzerland, have more than 30,000 members. About 30 independent car share companies operate in the United States.
*This article first appeared in the PBOT Transportation Options Winter 2010 newsletter
Read more in the Car Sharing 2.0 series
Part I: Paris launches world's first electric car sharing program
Part III: The benefits of carsharing
Part IV: Car2go provides one way car sharing in Austin, San Diego
Part V: Nationwide (and over the pond), Zipcar continues to innovate
Part VI: Peer to peer car sharing comes to Portland