Ridehailing services, dockless bikes, electric scooters and more represent a rapid change in personal mobility trends and technology that continues to change the way we talk about movement. The troves of data that these options generate – if they share the information – can be valuable in informing considerations as communities increasingly focus on moving people over vehicles.
Across nine major US cities, vehicle miles traveled has increased over 5.7 billion miles in the last six years due to the rise of shared ridesourcing options (i.e. UberPool, Lyft Line, Via). This issue is especially concerning because 60 percent of the customers would normally have ridden transit, walked, or biked instead – all more environmentally and geometrically more sustainable options when available.
One reaction to this increasing congestion has been for cities to explore how they can shape the impact of these services on local infrastructure and mobility options. Some cities have added or increased taxes on ridesourcing trips but, as always, it’s complicated and CityLab flags that this needs to be done carefully.
The recent mergers of TNCs with other mobility options, such as Lyft’s recent acquisition of Motivate, show a potentially different path for the future of mobility. For example, the integration of Jump electric assist bikes into the Uber app platform has cause Uber to seemingly disrupt itself. CNN recently reported that “Uber’s e-bikes are cannibalizing rides from Uber’s cars,” while Curbed writes that car trips are beginning to be replaced by scooters and e-bikes.
In addition to ridership, it is critical to look at other factors related to these new mobility options. The swift growth in bikeshare programs, both docked and dockless, across the country has led to a well-needed conversation on bicycle safety. The International Transport Forum recently published a report specifically outlining the safety impacts in the rapid rise of bikeshare. It calls for the prioritization of bike safety among policymakers and the collection of crash data to better identify and reduce safety risks. Safer biking leads to more equitable communities by providing more and cheaper options for residents to move around while improving public health.
While scooter and e-bikes are changing the conversation around what is possible in terms of mobility options, we must not forget to address the ability of underserved communities to access them as options. Cost is a particularly large deterrent for low-income residents. Bird, an electric scootershare company, wants to eliminate cost as a barrier to mobility through their new One Bird program. The program waives the $1-per-ride base fee for customers who are enrolled in or eligible for state or federal assistance programs, including Medicaid, SNAP and utility bill relief. Bird’s new program serves as a helpful reminder of something that all mobility managers work towards every day: the ideal that everyone should have affordable access to transportation options that get them where they need to go.