MicrobilityApril 6th, 2014
Using Micromobility as a solution to first mile/last mile
Using Microbomibility to Re-Analyze Urban Bike Lane Infrastructure
60% of all trips are between 0-5 miles suitable for micro-vehicles. In a congested city like London, where the barriers to access EV’s evolve mainly around space, micro-transportation could be a suitable alternative, whether privately owned, or publicly rented. Targeting B2C or B2B. Especially relevant now as London is on the cusp of regulating electric scooters, and major supply chains are utilizing electric biking fleets to combat time spent searching for spaces. (relevant to London’s goal of banning fuel vehicles by 2035)
Any roadmap to electric mobility should be adapted to three main characteristics of the specific market: local infrastructure and design; energy system; and mobility culture and patterns.
Electric taxis and public transportation will have a great impact in reducing carbon emissions. These types of vehicles are driven far more than personal-use vehicles, so commercial and public EV fleet development should be encouraged.
EV charging infrastructure should be developed along highways, at destination points, and close to public transportation nodes. This is critical for three reasons: first, to keep pace with current demand. Second, to address range anxiety issues by making charging stations accessible, convenient, and easy to locate. And, lastly, to promote the adoption of EVs in commercial and private markets
Electric scooters, docked and dockless shared bikes, and other vehicle types are shrinking the physical footprint needed to move people over relatively short distances. They have the potential to better connect people with public transit, reduce reliance on private cars, and make the most of existing space by “right-sizing” the vehicle, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (although the picture is somewhat clouded by the need to use conventional vans or trucks to collect, charge, and reallocate e-scooters and e-bikes should be accounted for).
Micromobility constitutes forms of transport that can occupy space alongside bicycles.
Conversely, consider what micromobility isn’t. It is unsuitable for sidewalks, which are the domain of pedestrians and certain very-low-speed vehicles. And it is unsuitable for vehicle-occupied roads dominated by cars and trucks capable of highway speeds. (Predictably, some have used micromobility modes in both of these spaces, resulting in conflicts with other users.) In short, micromobility leverages bike space in ways that were not originally intended, and it is within this slice of public infrastructure that we expect much of the innovation in the industry to occur.
As cities face rapid population growth, the need to move more residents through existing transportation networks is becoming ever more pressing. Over half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and that could climb to two-thirds by 2050. hile mass transit remains the most efficient means of moving large numbers of people long distances, getting people to and from transit remains a perennial difficulty—the much-discussed first-mile/last-mile challenge. If people lack a convenient, affordable way to get on a bus or train, they are far more likely to opt for a personal vehicle, contributing to the gridlock and poor air quality that plagues so many cities.
Micromobility services offer a tantalizing solution to address the first-mile/last-mile problem and to shrink transit deserts. For example, Mobike, a dockless bikesharing system in China, claims to have nearly doubled accessibility to jobs, education, and health care by targeting areas more than 500 meters from public transport in Beijing and placing their fleet to fill those gaps
The root of many cities’ umbrage, and a possible key to finding a sustainable and mutually beneficial way ahead for micromobility, could lie in the standardization and sharing of data. As dockless bikes and scooters have materialized on city streets and sidewalks, policymakers have often been left blind to how, when, and where these vehicles were being deployed and used. Now, as micromobility services become increasingly enmeshed in cities’ transportation landscape, having accurate, up-to-date information seems to be taking on even greater urgency. Without it, city leaders could struggle to ensure that new mobility options serve broader city goals, complement other modes, and avoid conflict with various user groups.
Thankfully, progress is being made. Cities are becoming increasingly sophisticated in understanding and specifying what data they need from providers, at times making it a precondition for micromobility operators to serve their markets. The city of Los Angeles developed and published a “mobility data specification” with standards and application programming interface (API) frameworks that enable municipalities to take in and analyze mobility providers’ data, in real time, creating a powerful tool for cities looking to understand and oversee new services.37 Micromobility operators, for their part, appear increasingly willing to share data with cities, including highly specific and low-latency information on vehicle locations and trips.38 Several third-party data aggregators are making it easier to combine mobility data across a variety of modes, providing cities and others with an increasingly holistic view of their transportation systems.39 All of this opens up new possibilities for cities, such as adopting dynamic caps on scooter fleets based on location- and time-specific key performance indicators such as number of trips per scooter per day.
Beyond the immediate need to address issues with motorized bikes and e-scooters, cities should look at micromobility as an opportunity to build a more robust governance and policy framework that can accommodate whatever new mobility options may be over the horizon. And those options are coming, to be sure:
What’s more, micromobility appears to make people happy—it’s faster than car-based trips in many situations, and users often say the freedom of being in the fresh air traveling to their destinations while avoiding traffic jams puts a smile on their face. Micromobility is perceived as “intuitive mobility” by design—it’s easy and liberating to buzz through traffic. It’s really quite simple: people feel rejuvenated, and the experience takes them back to their first time riding a bicycle or a scooter.
Companies find it much easier to scale up micromobility assets (for example, electric bikes) compared with car-based sharing solutions. For example, the current acquisition costs of an electric scooter are about $400, compared with the thousands of dollars required to purchase a car.
Thus, while today’s car-sharing solutions need several years to become economically viable, an outside-in business-case estimate of a leader in shared mobility shows that an e-scooter could break even in less than four months (Exhibit 1).
Actions might include banning cars (but not e-scooters) from congested or polluted districts, or creating incentives for the use of micromobility for short trips by significantly increasing prices for car-based shared mobility
If you have questions about data or are using data to help with your decision making process then talk to a CACI specialistabout harnessing data to support your evolving operations.
By Chloe MacDonald – Geospatial Data & GIS Consultant