With or without a car-sharing operator?

Numerous carpooling experiments around the Toulouse area

September 2023

Around Toulouse, within the catchment area of the metropolis, in the dynamic of demographic growth and in the prosperous associative breeding ground of the territory, several attempts to develop carpooling and organised hitchhiking have been made since the 2000s. The Tisseo local authority AOM took up this issue in 2008, deciding to develop a car-sharing service and then supporting various initiatives. Several experiments have coexisted in the area, with multi-partner and public-private forms of governance, revealing different visions of car sharing and its future. A particular feature of this area is the absence of financial incentives for carpoolers in the schemes developed.

People interviewed:

Driven by the growing attractiveness of Toulouse, the regions of the greater Toulouse area are marked by different trends in travel practices.

For more than ten years, the Toulouse catchment area has been gaining an average of 18,300 inhabitants every year, a growth rate of 1.37% per year. This makes it the second most dynamic catchment area in France, just behind Bordeaux. It has a population of 1.4 million (2020), half of whom live in Toulouse Métropole. The rate of population growth is higher in neighbouring EPCIs, reflecting the effects of metropolisation and the acceleration of peri-urbanisation. Furthermore, 69% of the working population in the catchment area work in a Toulouse Métropole municipality 1.

Tisseo Collectivités is the transport organising authority for Toulouse Métropole and two neighbouring EPCIs: the Sicoval and Muretain conurbation communities, together known as the « Greater Toulouse Conurbation ». Mobility practices follow different dynamics within this area, depending on density and public transport services: the most recent Household Travel Survey (Enquête Ménage Déplacement - EMD) in 2013 showed that the modal share of private cars was 40% in Toulouse, compared with 78% in the outlying areas. While the number of journeys made by car by Toulouse residents has fallen sharply since 2004, and is beginning to fall for those living in the inner suburbs, it is rising for those living in the outer suburbs.

Among the areas we visited (Toulouse metropolitan area and Sicoval), there are different mobility issues:

According to the 2013 EMD, 1.8 million journeys are made by car every day. This figure has remained stable compared with the previous EMD in 2004, reflecting a general decline in car use, while at the same time the area has gained several tens of thousands of inhabitants. The mobility survey also revealed that between 15,000 and 20,000 people carpool to work or school every day. The modal share of carpooling would therefore be 3.3% of home-work journeys, a level equivalent to that estimated at national level in 2019. The trend recorded between the last 2 EMDs is that of a stagnation in the occupancy rate of private cars (from 1.36 to 1.34 between 2004 and 2013).

A wealth of experiments in a pioneering area in terms of putting car-sharing on the agenda

In its Carpooling Master Plan, Tisseo Local Authority is presented as one of the « first AOMs in France to identify the carpooling trend very early on ». As early as 2003, the local authority supported the Covoitual initiative, a telephone contact service set up by an association in south-east Toulouse. In 2008, the service was taken over by Tisseo collectivités and integrated into its mobility offering. A dedicated in-house team is responsible for putting people in touch with each other, and offers this service when supporting companies with their Company Travel Plan (PDE). In 2010, a website was launched to facilitate carpooling.

From the outset, the local authority targeted the working population, in particular those working in the companies supported in their Mobility Plan, to whom the service was offered free of charge. The aim is to « complement the public transport offer », according to Christophe Doucet, Planning Director at Tisseo collectivités. Another trial being conducted in 2018, supported by Tisseo collectivités and developed by Klaxit, is aimed more specifically at the suburban EPCIs that are members of Tisseo (Sicoval and Muretain), in particular « areas with little or no public transport provision, to offer them a mobility service to link villages and suburban areas to the metropolis » 2.

Car sharing has also been put on the agenda in the Greater Toulouse area thanks to the involvement of external players. This is the case of the start-up Covia 3, which until 2018 offered a smartphone application for people to contact each other, and the Rezo Pouce association, set up in 2010 in the neighbouring department of Tarn-et-Garonne, which is seeking to develop organised hitchhiking. Sicoval was one of the first areas to join the association and install Rezo Pouce facilities, as elected representatives from the EPCI’s member municipalities met with elected representatives from Tarn-et-Garonne and were won over by the initiative. Julien Calle, head of transport at Sicoval, describes the region’s « very active community on mobility issues ». The aim of joining Rezo Pouce is to « meet a social need for travel, for a rather captive public, mainly young people and students ».

Between 2014 and 2018, Tisseo deployed a number of pick-up and drop-off points throughout the region, known as « carpooling spots ». On these posts, the 3 systems are displayed: the Tisseo Covoiteo service, the Covia application and Rezo Pouce. 101 carpooling spots have been installed in the area.

Tisseo Collectivités has also signed an agreement with Eco syst’m to offer a social carpooling service in the outlying communes of eastern Toulouse.

The many experiments developed or supported in the area covered by Tisseo Collectivités are gradually leading to the need to structure a strategy to link them together and set clearer objectives. « In 2019, we said to ourselves that we couldn’t carry on manoeuvring car sharing in this way, we had to structure it », recalls Christophe Doucet. Tisseo Collectivités then drew up a Carpooling Master Plan: « We are in line with the national objective of achieving a 9% modal share of carpooling for employees going to work. We want to eliminate a few vehicles, we don’t know how many, but we’ll evaluate it. The master plan was drawn up with the « participation of the State, the Region, the Department and the local authorities that are members of Tisseo, Vinci Autoroute, and above all, in order not to make any mistakes or miss out on the economic reality of car sharing, we held workshops with the 3 major operators: Blablacar, Karos and Klaxit ». 4

In parallel with the actions of Tisseo collectivités, a project for « public-private governance of mobility, around an inter-company mobility plan » 5 is being organised between 2018 and 2020. Commute is the result of a call for expressions of interest from the European Union, financed by the European ERDF fund. The project is being led by Toulouse Métropole, with the participation of 5 companies from the Toulouse-Blagnac airport and aeronautics zone, in the 1st ring of the Toulouse metropolitan area. Airbus, Safran, Aéroport Toulouse-Blagnac, Avion de Transport Régional and Sopra Steria. These 5 companies employ 25,000 people. Although the area is served by public transport (and will soon be even better with the arrival of the 3rd metro line), 70% of the employees of these companies travelled there by car in 2018. Employees travel an average of 40 km a day to get to and from work 6.

The aim of Commute is to change the mobility habits of the area’s employees in favour of alternatives to the car, with a view to reducing congestion and environmental impact. The experiments include a section on « new mobility services », including measures to encourage car-pooling, cycling and walking to public transport. The ambition for car-sharing is high, since its modal share, which ranged from 2 to 4% depending on the company before the project, should reach 10%. This is the highest increase target among those set for other modes at the start of the project.

If Tisseo collectivités is part of the Commute project and its systems (Covoiteo site and carpooling spots) are improved or deployed as part of the project, the companies involved decide to equip themselves with an additional contact tool. They decided to finance a private car-sharing operator, Karos, to develop a service that better met their expectations: « We wanted an operator that specialised in everyday car-sharing, with the possibility of being able to choose your journey from one day to the next, changing from one day to the next, depending on your schedule and obligations. We also wanted data to give us visibility, and a smartphone application. 7

Finally, the Department of Haute-Garonne has also decided to develop an ambitious policy to support car-sharing by building car-sharing areas. While the local authority initially based the first 20 car sharing areas on existing informal car sharing practices, by developing areas, slip roads or stretches of road where cars are parked, it subsequently adopted a more proactive policy. The aim is to develop 3,000 parking spaces (compared with 1,230 spaces spread over 47 sites at present), in order to achieve a ratio of 2.1 spaces per 1,000 inhabitants (compared with 0.9 at present). The challenge is no longer simply to make existing practices safer, but to develop car parks in areas that are deemed to be relevant, in particular areas that are less well served by public transport, which would then be more attractive for car sharing. Other services are envisaged in the future to go beyond carpooling areas: a benchmark has shown that other départements, such as Aude and Hérault, are investing in carpooling via other departmental responsibilities: social aid, inclusion, aid to municipalities.

What results have been achieved in terms of increasing car-sharing?

Various sources tell us about the results achieved by car-sharing schemes. First of all, Covoiteo, which has existed since 2003 and was taken over internally in 2008 by Tisseo, is not a partner of the RPC, but a Cerema evaluation carried out in 20218 reports on changes in the number of subscribers and journeys. A total of 5,500 people have signed up to the scheme. On an upward slope in 2014 - 2015, Covoiteo has since lost speed, with a 58% drop in the number of registrants in 2018 - 2019. On average, the site recorded 199 journeys 9 per month. There has been a surge in 2019, with a tenfold increase in the number of journeys. 2 thirds of journeys were made within the local area and one third as feeder services. The most frequent origin-destination is Toulouse-Toulouse. In 2019, Covoiteo accounted for 0.006% of daily home-work or home-study journeys made within the area.

COMMUTE has been monitored and evaluated throughout the project, as it is financed by the European ERDF fund. Between September 2018 and September 2020, 133,000 journeys were made, i.e. an average of around 5,542 journeys per month and 277 journeys per working day. This corresponds to approximately 0.64% of the km travelled for commuting by employees within the Commute perimeter 10. It should be noted that the project was partly carried out during a period of mobility restrictions linked to the Covid health crisis. In addition, 15% of the employees of the participating companies registered on the application, which is « as many people registered as during the 10 years of existence of Covoiteo, offered throughout the conurbation », reports Anne Julia, Sustainable Development Manager at Toulouse Blagnac Airport.

As the main mode of travel to work, carpooling has not changed and its modal share has remained between 2 and 4%, depending on the company. In the end, the number of carpooling journeys recorded is 5 times lower than the number of journeys already made by employees within the Commute perimeter who declared carpooling as their main mode of travel (3%). Occasional use has increased (modal share from 8% to 12%), demonstrating the need for carpoolers using platforms to have several mobility solutions in addition to carpooling. The mobility surveys carried out during Commute have also helped the project to evolve: cycling, which was not initially included, has developed strongly, and public transport, whose use has fallen due to the health crisis, remains a popular mode, with 38% of employees wishing to change mode turning to public transport.

As part of Commute, a platform has been developed by companies based on employees’ place of residence, to visualise the regional distribution of home-work flows. « Household travel surveys allow us to visualise these flows, but the last one dates from 2013 and the next one will be in 2024. With demographic growth, the situation is changing rapidly. The platform developed as part of the Commute project is a dynamic tool for observing home-work flows and how they are changing », explains Guillaume Raffier from Sopra Steria.

Finally, the RPC can be used to analyse changes in the number of journeys recorded in the Tisseo local authority area. A strong dynamic can be observed at the beginning of 2020 (record of 26,649 journeys in January 2020), then the pandemic cut this trend short. During 2021, the number of monthly journeys did not exceed 8,200. Momentum finally picked up again from February 2022, buoyed by the inflationary national context, with a peak in the number of journeys recorded in September 2022 (11,671 journeys). At the beginning of 2023, with the national momentum generated by the carpooling plan, the curve rose sharply again to over 20,000 journeys in March 2023. The most frequently carpooled journeys are within Toulouse or between Toulouse and Blagnac, where the airport zone is located. The majority of journeys recorded by Sicoval and Muretain agglo are made in exchange with Toulouse (8 out of 10) or Toulouse Métropole.

Assessing infrastructure is more complicated. For the Department of Haute-Garonne, which records a majority of informal use of its car sharing areas, indicators other than monitoring the number of journeys need to be sought. Attendance figures are measured every month, sometimes supplemented by interviews with car park users. However, this information is only partial, as it does not indicate how carpooling is actually practised by users of the car park. A survey of car park users, carried out by Ecov on behalf of the Département, showed that 80% of those surveyed travel to the car park by car and that, on average, they take less than two minutes to get there.

As for the Rezo Pouce organised hitchhiking facilities, Sicoval has been a member for many years, but the service has few subscribers. The local authority lacks the resources to run the service, and it is difficult to estimate its actual use.

Different visions for the future of everyday car sharing

From the outset, Tisseo collectivités has defended a model for the development of in-house carpooling, which it supports in its capacity as an AOM. It wishes to avoid competing with its existing public transport network. To date, Covoiteo is not listed as a CPP partner operator, as it does not provide the proof required by the ministerial department. The AOM cannot benefit from the State aid announced by the Carpooling Plan or distribute subsidies to carpoolers. Tisseo Collectivités is also reluctant to provide subsidies, as C. Doucet explains. Doucet: « Unlike public transport, where you control the situation, with car sharing it can be exponential, because the practice multiplies and you end up paying a new driver, a new commission to the operator, and there’s no end to it. This means that in the economic model of private operators, it can be a bottomless pit, because ultimately, the more carpoolers there are, which is a good thing, the more the community will pay.

For their part, the companies involved in the Commute project deplore the AOM’s decision to develop an in-house car-sharing service, while Commute’s European funding ends at the end of 2020. Some of the companies involved in the project are continuing to finance Karos: « The companies are setting up the Sustainable Mobility Package, and on top of that we have to subsidise the car-sharing service. Today, the company pays both ways, » regrets Anne Julia. We don’t understand why the AOM didn’t follow up on this experiment, even though we’ve shown that it’s a good idea to choose a single operator so that you don’t have to download 7 different applications. Companies also value the flexibility of carpooling, its lower cost and its speed of deployment, compared with public transport.

Since 1 January 2023, the management of Covoiteo has been transferred to Tisseo voyageurs, the public transport operator in the area. The challenge for the AOM is to find an economic model and a controlled deployment of carpooling, integrated into its overall network and its range of mobility services.

  • 1 These figures come from the Agence d’urbanisme et d’aménagement Toulouse aire métropolitaine. « Dynamiques de peuplement de l’aire d’attraction de Toulouse », April 2022.

  • 2 Christophe Doucet, Director of Ecomobility Planning at Tisseo Collectivité.

  • 3 The car-sharing activity of the start-up Covia was integrated into the Klaxit operator in 2018.

  • 4 Christophe Doucet, Tisseo Collectivité

  • 5 Anne Julia, Head of Sustainable Development at Toulouse Blagnac Airport

  • 6 Commute final evaluation, January 2021. « Final evaluation - Action plan. Qualitative and quantitative analysis report.

  • 7 Guillaume Raffier, Business Analyst at Sopra Steria

  • 8 Presentation of the carpooling evaluation carried out by Cerema for Tisseo collectivités (September 2021).

  • 9 56,000 journeys recorded (2004 - 2019), of which 64% active (35,840), divided by the number of months over the period.

  • 10 To compare the km travelled via Karos/Commute and the km travelled by Commute employees using all modes, we based ourselves on the number of daily journeys per working day (277 for Karos and 50,000 using all modes), multiplied by the average distance (23 km for Karos according to the evaluation document, 20 km for Commute employees (according to Commute evaluation January 2021). Or 6373 divided by 1,000,000, multiplied by 100.


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