Case Study: Sharing Mobility (Milan, Italy)

2018-10-17 00:00:00

By LYU Lianen/Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Survey Research Institute

Milan was a deserving city of the 3rd Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation in 2016. This study tour took place during September 5th and 6th, 2017.

Located in the north of Italy, Milan has a reputation as the fashion city of the world. Milan has an area of 180 square kilometers with 1.3 million inhabitants while its metropolitan area covers 1,570 square kilometers, with a population of 3.2 million.

With rapid economic grwoth and population boom, cities all over the world have encountered traffic problems. Milan is of no exception. The city faces many challenges such as air pollution, traffic congestion and urban space saturation. The most noticeable problem is traffic congestion. The average passenger traffic per day was 2.98 million times in 2013. Although most people take public transportation (57% of them choose public transportation, 30% auto, 7% motorcycle, and 6% bicycle), Milan is still one of the  cities in Europe with highest car ownership (every 100 residents have 51 cars on average. By contrast, the numbers  are 31  in London, 29 in Berlin and 25 in Paris). So serious is the traffic congestion of Milan, that it is also known one of the highest  concentrations of particulate matter in Europe.


In the face of problems such as air pollution and traffic congestion, Milan put forward innovative and integrated solutions for transportation in order to enhance economic competitiveness, improve the social cohesion and realize the goals of sustainable development.

In June 2013, Milan municipal government introduced a new type of car sharing scheme, which provided an efficient, reliable and cost-effective transportation system named “sharing with everyone” for anybody at any place and any time. In June 2015, the government of Milan launched a similar motorcycle sharing service program. With the increasing number of citizens choosing sharing mobility year by year, 2,942 cars, 1,500 motorcycles and 4,650 bikes (of which 1000 bikes are fully automatic) are put into use at present. As a result, Milan acquired a leading position in Europe in the “sharing with everyone” transport system.  

Milan’s sharing transport program –“sharing with everyone” registered for the third session of Guangzhou Award for International Urban Innovation in 2016, making it one of the 10 finalists due to its innovation in exploring sharing mobility.


1. Congestion charge in central areas

In January 2012, the congestion charging plan was implemented in district C. In order to control the number of carsentering the central area, each car was charged 5 euros . Traffic in the city centre has fallen by nearly 30 per cent since the plan took effect, reducing the daily flow of vehicles by40,000, which has madespace for walking and shared transportation. In the meantime, part of the congestion charges was invested into the development of shared transportation. For instance, congestion charges in 2015 totalled 26.3 million euros, of which about 17% was spent on the sustainable development of transportation projects such as “sharing with everyone” program, especially in expanding bike sharing.

2. Sharing transportation

It is necessary to continue prioritizing the development of shared transportation , which is featured as an environment-friendly substitute to other transportation methods.. Milan became the first city to launch a car-sharing service in Italy as early as September 2001. There were 3 cars and 20 members involved in this activity, which was run by Legambiente, an NGO of environmental alliance. Ten years later, the number of Milan’s traditional shared cars remained at 190, with 7,000 subscribers. In 2012, the municipal government and the Organization of Environment and Territories (AMAT) carried out a study   to explore the potential for expanding car-sharing schemes. Its results  suggested that Milan qualified as a candidate.

In overall, Milan performed better at the beginning phase than other European cities including London, Paris and Berlin at the lancing period. In August 2016, The municipal government of Milan issued the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). In this plan, Milan referred to further developments of public transport in the next 10 years to add values to urban space, and to change the focus from owning private cars to choosing sharing transport such as cars, bikes and motorcycles.


After years of competition and verification, Milan has 6 operators of sharing cars, including Enjoy, Car2Go, DriveNow, Share’ngo, GuidaMi/Ubeeqo and E-Vai. According to the latest data, car-sharing operators offer about 2,942 cars (27 per cent of which are electric cars) with about 640,000 users. In addition, Milan began to offer bike sharing services by BikeMi in 2008. Currently, Milan has 4,650 bicycles (of which 1,000  are all-electric), 280 bike stations and 45,000 users. The average usage of bikes exceeds 20,000 times per day and the number is increasing now. In 2017, two Chinese bike-sharing companies, Mobike and Ofo, won the bid to become Milan bike-sharing operators. Two bike-sharing enterprises in China have developed ambitious plans to be implemented in the late September this year. For example, ofo plans to throw 4,000 bikes in Milan in the future, and employ 40 full-time staff for service. 

According to the statistics of car-sharing operations in the first five months of 2017 in Milan, the average mileage of each trip of the shared cars is 6.2 kilometers and the average rental time is 28 minutes. Besides, the total rental cost per day totals 15,340 euro, the rental fee is 5.6 euros per day for each car and the annual rental average is 27.5 euros for each person. Of the shared car users, 32.91% of these are female and 67.09% are male. Regarding age distribution,   17% of the users are between 18 to 25 years old, 48%  are between 26 to 40 years old, 33% are between 41 to 65yearsold and only 2%  are above 65 years old. As for the operation of shared bikes in Milan, BikeMi started to operate shared bikes in December 2008. The statistics in June 2017 showed that 280 distribution stations of shared bikes were created in this company and 4,650 bikes were prepared, of which 1,000 were electric. Besides, there were 60,000 subscribers buying annual cards (36 euros per card) with an average growth of 25% in recent 3 years.In addition,  45,000 users  subscribed for a weekly membership (9 euros per card) or a daily membership (4.5 euros per card).


1. Cycling environment needs to be improved. 

Although Milan is making great efforts to develop bike-sharing. Roads in the centre of the city are generally narrow and roadside parking takes up a lot of road space.

2. Sharing mobility needs to be improved continuously. 

Electric cars make up 27 per cent of Milan’s Shared cars, which is a modest proportion. In general, Milan’s sharing mobility is still under development and improvement, which is embodied in the following aspects: Currently, there is no overall planning of the city’s sharing mobility; each sharing traffic operator is in charge of its own affairs, and the city has not established a big data platform for unified sharing traffic; and some new technologies, such as electronic fences, have not been used yet. In addition, the sharing traffic operators are basically in the early stage of investment or the cultivation and grabbing of market, so the business is still in the red. Lastly, the city of Milan has not yet put in place regulations on the introduction of borrow-and-return sharing bicycles.


1. Developing sharing mobility in a progressive way

Milan develops sharing mobility step by step. Before the practice of this program, administrative departments of Milan municipal government have held many meetings to listen to the opinions of operators and citizens, and absorbed suggestions from all aspects. Then, it  introduced action plans for sharing cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

2. Applying new technologies in sharing mobility

Milan applies new technologies to make the inquiry and booking process of the shared car system more comprehensive, faster and more intuitive and personalized. Due to the introduction of different operators, the shared traffic can be either fixed at the station for loan or lent at any place in the service area. The service of free borrowing and returning is also called “mobile” service, which depends on the application downloaded in smart phone. The users can borrow sharing mobility at will and park it at any public parking station. This innovative sharing system better meets the needs of younger generations, making it easier for them to travel freely in the city by means of affordable transportation.

3. Government sponsoring the programme

With the rapid development of the Internet, new challenges have been brought to urban governance. It is usually after the emergence of new things that the government passively conducts normative management. However, Milan firmly grasps the leading opportunity of sharing traffic, and conducts research and planning in advance. Besides, it encourages the engagement of all parties, listens to opinions from all sides and standardizes before developing programs. For the government, the most important task is to develop an efficient, reliable, cost-effective, price-transparent sharing mobility system for anyone in any place and at any time. The system is composed of environmentally friendly vehicles. Milan has set a threshold for entering Milan’s shared-traffic operators through a bidding process. In the bidding document, detailed provisions are made on the scale of the investment, financing, operation plan and division of labor among the participants of the operator’s shared cars/bicycles. For example, the following requirements are put forward for sharing cars: free floating system; no reservation required and on-demand service; Cars are fueled by electricity, hybrid power, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline and so forth; the vehicles shall meet the standards of Europe v and beyond. At least 1/100 of the vehicles are for people with mobility problems. The city has also strictly ordered operators to conduct at least one survey a year on customer satisfaction. Then report and share their data to the government . For example, to avoid parking in a mess, BikeMi bike users can find fixed piles to park, swipe their card to pick up the car and park it in the pile. Since pure electric vehicles are used,Share’ ngo operators will enjoy discounts and other preferential treatments for parking fees and congestion charges in central areas of the city.

4. Giving play to the role of market

Giving full play to the role of market to develop sharing mobility. The public administrative departments, enterprises, social organizations and citizens of Milan are not only stakeholders, but also co-workers for solutions. They make joint effort to design and develop products, and enact policies for the products, services and practices of sharing mobility. The local government is the organizer of strategy and practice while sponsors are responsible for financial and communication support and sharing mobility operators carry out public activities to improve the quality of service. The government of Milan has not set any regulations or requirements to those operators, such as the so-called appraisal standards and a withdrawal mechanism. On the contrary, the operators are assessed by the market. If the enterprise fails to earn profit because of poor management, it will be knocked out of the market.

5. Advocating multi-mode sharing mobility

Milan’s sharing mobility is made up of a variety of modes, including sharing cars (including electric and traditional fuel models), sharing bikes, sharing electric bikes and sharing motorcycles. The roads in central Milan are generally narrow, filled with many single lines, but the road network density is relatively high. In order to adapt to the characteristics of this network, small/micro cars are widely used. Unlike many cities that restrict or even ban e-bikes and motorcycles, sharing e-bikes and motorcycles is part of Milan’s shared traffic. Milan does not believe that the promotion of shared electric bikes and motorcycles will increase the difficulty of traffic management and lead to increased traffic accidents. It can be seen that Milan’s traffic management and good public awareness of traffic laws and regulations are worth learning.

Lessons learned

Priority should be given to the development of public transport. Milan is controlling and reducing the number of private cars, and guiding citizens to choose instead public transportation, sharing transportation and other ways to travel. From the perspective of cities around the world, it is a development trend  worthyof priority to develop public transportation and realize the green, low-carbon and intensive development of urban transportation. The emergence of shared cars, to some extent, can inhibit the rapid growth of private cars and it is also a beneficial supplement to public transportation. Research on Milan has shown that a shared car can replace 8-15 private cars. By the mid-term of the sharing mobility plan, the development of shared cars is expected to increase the total length of Milan’s roads by 7.5 percent. In terms of bicycle sharing, 1,129 tons of carbon dioxide emissions were reduced in 2015, which played a positive role in improving the environment. However, the scale of sharing cars and bicycles should also be properly controlled to prevent the over-development of public transportation.


1. Defining the development orientation of sharing mobility

We will encourage the development of sharing mobility and provide citizens with diverse travel options. Under the guidance of the overall urban planning, vision or blueprints or goals of urban traffic planning, it is recommended to do well in the top-level design of the sharing mobility, understand the role and function of sharing mobility in the urban traffic system, and deal with the relationship between the shared vehicles and private cars, bus, subway and other modes of transport.

2. Promoting the orderly development of the industry

In terms of sharing bicycles, relevant management policy documents should be issued to strengthen standard management and promote orderly development. For sharing cars, the government should play a leading role in making plans for sharing traffic development, and fully understand overall layout, development scale, barriers to entry, vehicle safety, technical standards, and supporting measures, etc. In this process, the major departments of the government should solicit the opinions of operators, relevant industry organizations, experts and citizens. By replicating the experience of Milan, the government should introduce several operators through bidding and encourage the use of pure electric vehicles. Besides, it is advisable to give full play to the market role and promote fair competition among operators to select the superior ones.

3. Supervising the regulations of industries

At present, the shortcoming of the development of the domestic sharing transportation industry lies in the imperfect management rules. The detailed rules should be issued as soon as possible according to the specific problems in the operation and management of the industry. At the same time, it is necessary to fulfill the main responsibility of the operator for safe production, establish and improve vehicle files, set up GPS monitoring platforms in vehicles, and take on inspection duties of tenants for behaviors  such as speeding and fatigue driving.