Science and Technology

Free-flow parking for car-sharing

Across Australia, there is increasingly intense competition for kerbside space and parking. Roadside infrastructure management is a complex challenge in most jurisdictions so working to better understand and improve current parking arrangements will tackle a range of high priority issues for local and state governments, businesses, and our growing urban and regional centres.

The current, round trip, car-share services in Australia are proven to reduce the use of motor vehicles, and can also increase the use of public transport, cycling, and walking.

These transport modes enable a reduction in pressure on network capacity resulting from population growth and cars owned by residents. This, in turn, reduces the number of cars competing for parking and driving space. Impressively this can all be achieved at a minimal cost to government, including councils and other agencies charged with managing transport networks and parking.

Free-floating car sharing services (FFCS) have been introduced in a range of jurisdictions internationally as an additional option to round trip car-sharing. FFCS removes the need for the shared vehicle to have a specific parking spot, most commonly allocated by a Local Government Authority (LGA), negotiated with the car-share provider. FFCS allows users to pick up and return cars anywhere within specified areas of a city.

While a seemingly simple proposal, whereby a customer can collect a vehicle through their member app and pay-per-kilometre to a destination of their choice, and park it where another member of the car-share program can share it, this can be a surprisingly complicated process to enable, and can cause public backlash, as seen with the implementation of free-floating bike share.

This project will work with key stakeholders in academia, government, industry, and the community to better understand the current parking challenges and work towards a solution that enables the wider availability and usability of car-share services.


Project background

One of the most visible but less considered impact of the more than 19.2 million registered motor vehicles in Australia is parking. The number of cars is soon to outnumber the population. As cars are stationary on average 95% of the time, parking is only going to become more of an issue in our suburbs, towns, and cities.

It is reasonable to assume that a reduction in private vehicle ownership will help mitigate the impacts of parking and reduce the need for car-park spaces, and in the long-term, potentially change the way we look at roadside infrastructure with the opportunity for completely rethinking the way we manage land-use planning and development.

This project, in close collaboration with government and industry, will investigate if free-flow parking for car-sharing programs can increase car-share uptake, helping reduce congestion and lead to better flows of traffic in and around regions, similar to the proven effect of round-trip carshare.

This project proposes to investigate FFCS services as they currently exist internationally and assess the potential benefits they can bring. The benefits of round trip carshare already seen in the City of Sydney include:

  • Less car ownership: Moving from ownership to services reduces the resident car fleet. For every round trip car-share vehicle in the network there will be 10 fewer privately owned vehicles in the municipality. This reduction in the number of vehicles is of great value when the number of resident vehicles is equal to or greater than the available kerbside storage space. The car share fleet in the City of Sydney alone has taken around 10,000 cars from the municipality.
  • Less car use: Round trip car-share users in the City of Sydney reported travelling by car less than before – around 2,000 vehicle kilometres less each year. This reduction in vehicle kilometres is of great value in reducing congestion, pollution and road trauma while increasing public health. The City of Sydney car share network has reduced vehicle kilometres travelled by up to 37 million kilometres each year.
  • Users of round trip car services replace car trips with trips by public transport, walking and by bicycle. These positive steps are also a focus of Council policies.
  • Drivers who do not use the service benefit from the reduction in competition for road space, parking at destinations and kerbside storage.1

FFCS have been introduced in a range of jurisdictions internationally as an additional option compared to round trip car sharing, which removes the need for the shared vehicle to have a specific parking spot most commonly allocated by a Local Government Authority, negotiated with the car-share provider. FFCS allows users to pick up and return cars anywhere within a specified area of a city.

FFCS can provide a high degree of utilisation of vehicles and less usage of infrastructure in the form of parking lots and thus has the potential to increase the efficiency of the transport sector. However, there can also be a concern that FFCS competes with other efficient modes of transport such as biking, taxi/uber and public transport or could perhaps increase the number of vehicles movements on the network due to the increased convenience.2

The greatest advantages of the “one-way” service is that it provides it users with sought-after flexibility as people can drive wherever they need to go and then terminate the rental of the vehicle by simply returning it within the same delimited area, using one of the authorised spaces.

The greatest disadvantage is the potential negative impact on the wider community as FFCS can lead to bunching and disruption to local parking areas and resident backlash, as seen in free float bike share.

Currently the Australian car share service market supports over 150,000 users accessing over 30,000 vehicles. This takes place primarily in Melbourne and Sydney, where 90% of the members and vehicles are based. In particular in the City of Sydney, which:

  • has the largest network in Australia with 20,000 users (equivalent to 20% of the resident population of the municipality)
  • using 805 vehicles (162 in off-street locations) fixed to specific parking spaces allocated by the City of Sydney in consultation with the local community

Thanks to the investment of the round-trip car share service providers and the support of councils, there is now a market in which car services can compete with low-use car ownership.

We propose a project to work with government, industry and key stakeholders to develop a framework and trial use-cases to offer councils and their communities the tools and evidence base on which to expand uptake of car-sharing, and to consider free-flowing car-share services.


  1. Phillip Boyle & Associates, 2016. The Impact of Car Share Services in Australia. CSA ‐ International Car Sharing Association, pages 1 and ii
  2. Habibi, S., Sprei, F., Englund, C., Pettersson, S., Voronov, A., Wedlin, J., Engdahl, H., 2017. Comparison of free‐floating car
    sharing services in cities, in: MOBILITY ‐ ECEEE 2017 Summer Study – Consumption, Efficiency & Limits, p. 8 page 771

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