Upscaling residential carsharing: recommendations for more social and affordable carsharing at street level

The Netherlands seems an ideal context for shared mobility: witness the success of the OV-fiets, and pioneer carsharing firms like Greenwheels. Dutch urban mobility is also highly networked and intermodal, as anyone with an OV-chipkaart knows. Yet there are large parts of the country, and considerable sections of society, for whom shared mobility offers little that is accessible and/or affordable. One such group are the inhabitants of social housing, which number in the millions, and who are at particular risk of mobility poverty, even in larger cities. At the same time, there are many other residents of Dutch cities who are in favour of replacing on-street car parking with more social amenities, more greenery, and more spaces for play.

Of course, Dutch cities have long taken a global lead in the conversion of on-street car parking to precisely these uses. However, against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of free parking spaces, and the ongoing expansion of car infrastructure (including new parking garages), the question arises of whether these efforts are a realistic response to the scale and urgency of climate change. Further, the parking spaces that are removed, are sometimes replaced by shared mobility services with administrative and financial barriers to access, such as a need for a credit card or up-front fees.

Man sitting in a chair drinking coffee on a parking space which resembles a living room
‘Parking is public space’. Credits: Wikimedia Commons, 2017/, Creative Commons Attribution.

Given this moderate pace of progress against the promise of more rapid change, we set out to investigate the upscaling potential of residential carsharing in the Netherlands, in a project made possible by NWO top-up funding to the Utrecht University PhD research of Dr. Karla Münzel (2020). By ‘residential carsharing’, we refer to two processes. Firstly, the conversion of on-street car parking spaces to other uses, with some retained to accommodate carsharing mobility services, in the existing urban fabric. Secondly, the deliberate implementation of carsharing services in new-build urban fabric, as a design input into the allocation and planning of urban open space. The dynamics of residential carsharing bring together shared mobility service providers, the housing sector, and municipal actors, with very different motivations and points of departure according to their for-profit (e.g., Greenwheels) or non-profit (e.g., social housing association) orientation.

Through interviews and a workshop, complemented by reviews of recent literature and policy, we find many examples of success and innovation in residential carsharing, especially among for-profit actors. However, the potential of carsharing for residents of the non-profit (social) housing sector remains largely unmet, despite interest from these actors. Further, while non-profit, cooperative carsharing organisations, like DEEL (, have had a promising degree of success, there is comparatively little public-sector material support for upscaling here.

We conclude with recommendations to address the challenges found in this fast-evolving area. In particular, we identify ‘responsibility gaps’ in which progress appears to be held back by the lack of a decisive central actor. One concrete example of such a gap is the aspiration of some actors to work towards a single platform offering access to many carsharing services, which could assist in legitimising the sector and its claims on public space (such as on-street parking).

The report, as well as a summary in Dutch and English, can be read below.

Summary (EN) | Samenvatting (NL) (PDF, 4,4 MB)

Petzer, B.J.M., T. Vaskelainen, A. Campman, K. Frenken, (2021). Partnering for Shared Mobility: Recommendations for Upscaling Residential Carsharing in the Netherlands (PDF, 7,0 MB). Report based on interviews and a workshop with carsharing and housing sector shareholders, Utrecht University.