Micromobility may be underestimated

Perhaps take this short post by Spin on how the positive impacts of micromobility may be underestimated with a grain of salt because they are themselves a micromobility provider with their scooters. On the other hand, they are sharing intriguing insights since they do have a lot of valuable usage data, which they have put to good use, combining their own research with their partners’ research (Ford and the University of Florida in the post).

We found that, on average, approximately 25 percent of Spin trips replaced private or rideshare car trips. In cities with more car-centric infrastructure and land-use patterns like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Tampa, we found even higher levels, with more than 30 percent of scooter trips replacing what would otherwise have been trips taken by car.

Usually, in this kind of research, the impact of ride displacement (when someone changes mode of transportation because of the availability of a new option) is taken as one-to-one. I.e. if you walked 2km and used a scooter instead, it’s also taken as 2km. According to Spin’s research, on average the displaced rides are actually on longer distances, “suggesting that using the conventional metrics to estimate car VMT displacement and emissions reduction by e-scooter use consistently underestimates both.”

Of the 271 respondents, almost 60 percent have used e-scooters to connect with public transit at least once, and a fifth of e-scooter riders responded that more than 25 percent of their trips connected with public transit.

They also found that “non-white and low-income respondents tended to choose the e-scooter option and the combined e-scooter and transit options more often than white and higher-income travellers.” Although they don’t expand or speculate, it’s a good guess that those neighbourhoods are often not as well-served with transit options and/or the residents have to commute on longer distances to their jobs.

Unsurprisingly, they also found through a user survey that “bundled pricing, fare payment and app integration, and improving bike and e-scooter infrastructure surrounding transit stops can be effective strategies to promote micromobility as a last-mile complement to transit.” Good point, but also valid even without micromobility. Better integrated options, whether through adjoining stops or unified pricing, have been repeatedly proven to increase the adoption of transit options.

Woman and man on electric scooters. Photo by Vlad B on Unsplash.