Understanding the New “Sharing Economy”

by Frederick TransIT Community Relations Manager. 0 Comments

Whether referred to as peer-to-peer renting, collaborative consumption, or sharing economy, the gist is the same. You have something that someone else needs, so you enter into an (informal or formal) agreement to let them use it for a fee, or borrow it at no cost.

New mobile apps are being developed all the time, with  Lyft (car sharing), Airbnb (apartment/room sharing), TaskRabbit (courier sharing), and SnapGoods (expensive equipment you use only occasionally such as snowblowers or rototillers) among the most well known.

Perhaps we, as a culture, have had the fear of the devil put into us by watching too many episodes of “Hoarders,” but it is clear that people are foregoing purchasing expensive things in favor of paying minimal fees to rent them, or using an app that allows you to borrow items free of charge, sort of like a library.  Uniiverse, a collaborative consumption platform that launched last year, connects people in cities and across the country, allowing them to share resources and even make some money. A two-minute video, which you can watch here, lets you how Uniiverse works, and is pretty impressive. If you’re an extrovert who has a sense of adventure, Uniiverse may be for you!

A compelling question is whether or not Frederick is ready for this type of collaborative, sharing economy.  We’re a college town, full of students and young professionals. Hood, until recently, had two Zip Cars housed on campus, so there is at least some awareness of how this works.  Frederick County is the largest in Maryland in terms of land mass, so we certainly do a lot of driving and would likely be open to saving more money on gas and vehicle upkeep.

There are scores of ridesharing apps and programs out there now that allow commuters to find others who would love to have some company on their commute down to D.C., along with help paying for gas.  From Uber to Sidecar, Lyft to Carma, there are apps which allow people to hook up with others going where they’re going.  There are some questions out there about regulation of car sharing services, and municipalities, Counties, and States are grappling with how to deal with these questions.  A great article was published in the October 2013 edition of Governing magazine, and those interested in more about regulation and service can read more there.

Food for thought, though – are Frederick County’s 240,000 residents willing to stop buying high dollar items and start sharing them? Is the fact that our cars sit unused 95% of the time in our driveways or parking lots at work enough to motivate us to consider letting someone else use the car when it’s sitting idle? What is the tipping point? I think we’ll know in the next 10-20 years, as this new sharing economy is due to explode.

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