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UTEP Engineer Studies Potential for Carsharing in El Paso

Dr. Kelvin Cheu
Dr. Kelvin Cheu
A new form of transportation may soon be offered to residents of El Paso.

Carsharing, a fairly new concept in the U.S., is when a company or organization owns a fleet of vehicles. People can subscribe to use the vehicles at any given time and can pick up and return vehicles to designated stations without prior notice. Typically the organization is responsible for vehicle ownership, maintenance and insurance, while users pay a monthly subscription fee, plus time and distance charges.

Dr. Kelvin Cheu, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at UTEP, says carsharing should be an attractive mode of transportation for El Paso residents.

“The advantage for the user is they don’t have to worry about buying insurance or maintaining the vehicle.”

Major cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Austin already have carsharing companies with growing market shares and profits. Major car rental companies have also began to study carsharing as the next profitable market segment.

“What is particularly unique to our city is that we regularly have commuters who cross the border,” said Cheu. “Carsharing may be attractive to them because instead of waiting two hours at the bridge, they can just walk across, pick up a vehicle, and drive in El Paso. It should also be attractive for major trip generators such as UTEP, Fort Bliss, the airport and medical centers.”

Other major cities have encouraged people to participate in carsharing by providing free parking downtown for carsharing vehicles and reserving free parking lots.

“The tendency is that if you buy your own car, you drive more,” said Cheu. “But if you drive a carsharing vehicle, you tend to plan your trips more carefully, save gasoline and help the environment.”

Through a project funded by the Texas Transportation Institute, Cheu and the UTEP research team will study the market potential and investigate the potential demand for carsharing within the city of El Paso.

“By performing surveys on potential customers, companies, and border commuters, we can gauge the potential of the carsharing market here and propose a carsharing system for El Paso.”