Brief comment on e-scooters: "personal mobility" versus "mass mobility" versus "mass transit"
charlie in a comment on another thread asked:
I'd be curious on your response to Alon Levy's point as well that transit rich cities can afford to do bikeshare scooter as a last mile, but it isn't a substitute for transit.My response (edited and expanded and also infused with some articles shared by NotionsCapital):
I haven't read Alon Levy's post.
In these kinds of discussions often people mistake personal mobility vehicles, and by personal I mean a vehicle that can only move one person, or maybe 2-4 people at a time -- cars, scooters, bikes-- for "transit," when what they really mean is individual transportation versus moving large numbers of people at once, to wit, "mass transit" which moves large numbers of people at the same time on the same vehicles, e.g. bus, light rail, streetcar, train, etc.
WRT Alon's point, it depends on the trip.
As we were discussing recently, with increased density and higher income residents more amenities become present over shorter distances, reaching a kind of critical mass capability of negating the need to travel farther, maybe negating the need to use mass transit. Instead you can substitute by walking, biking, scootering, or delivery.
This likely is influencing the decline of Metrorail ridership in Metrorail's theoretically best markets of DC and along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Arlington County.
When bike share was first introduced in Montreal they found it substituted for transit in something like 15% or more trips. There, where the subway vehicles are small, unairconditioned and the system is running close to capacity shifting that number of people helps to add capacity back to transit...
Mass mobility versus mass transit. Definitionally, there's a difference between the term "mass mobility" versus "mass transit." And we should think about this. I don't think I've used this term before.
I haven't coined it but there aren't many examples of its usage if you do a Google search, but there are some, and interesting ones at that.
What I mean is moving a lot of people at the same time but not by car and not by transit--specifically walking or biking, what are sometimes called "nonmotorized transportation."
Think lots of people walking in New York City or London or Paris or Tokyo, Chinese cities, etc.
World's busiest pedestrian crossing - Large panorama of the Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo.
Or in Amsterdam or Copenhagen the large number of bicyclists, where in an average day they have have mode splits up to 40% of people traveling by bike for a wide variety of short, medium, and longer distance trips.
That's definitely mass mobility. But it's not transit. And there it does substitute for "local transit."
Are e-scooters capable of being "mass mobility"?
Photo from "Unfortunately, the Electric Scooters Are Fantastic: But can they succeed despite their essential dorkiness?," The Atlantic Magazine
In DC, theoretically, I can see personal mobility -- walking, scooters, biking, e-biking -- having the potential of accomplishing 30% or more of certain kinds of trips, but not for longer distance trips normally undertaken on transit.
A majority of trips in the US are three miles or less. Remember that in the US, 51% of trips are 3 miles or less, and another 13% are 3-5 miles. A significant number of those trips can be accomplished by personal mobility modes that are also sustainable (walking, biking, scooter, one-way car share). In short, it's complicated. Yes, I agree with Alon's point generally. Scooters complement but don't substitute for transit.
But last mile/first mile as an element of transit trips is probably not the primary segment of users for e-scooters.
This is the case for bike share too. It appears that the primary users of transit in DC are nonresidents, using transit to get to and from work. Either their station is pretty close to their final destination and walking suffices, or they are not knowledgeable about complementary bike and scooter share options, and unlikely to use them. This is different from how bike share is used in Europe.
Thinking about intra-district versus inter-district trips versus intra-district versus inter-district transit. Instead, in the US context, scooters are (1) more likely to be used in "walking and transit cities" ("Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis," Peter Muller>) rather than in suburban and spread out cities.
(2) These are likely what we would call "intra-district" trips and relevant concepts are my old mobility shed concept and intra-district mobility, which I had applied to thinking about transit modes, but not so much for walking/biking/scooters/e-bikes for intra-district trips starting and ending within the district.
-- "Further updates to the Sustainable Mobility Platform Framework," 2018
-- "Updating the mobilityshed | mobility shed concept," 2008
-- "Mobility hubs and next generation transportation planning," 2008
-- "Modern streetcars are transportation projects,not merely economic development augurs: but intra-district not inter-city services," 2017 which is built on this post, ""Making the case for intra-city versus inter-city transportation planning," which dates to 2011
Not "Talking About Revolution."Just as I don't believe Autonomous Vehicles will save the world either because even if it gets used more, and remember 50% of the time ride hailing vehicles are in use they are empty, it's still using a car to move people around in a congested place with constraints on road space, I don't think scooters will do much except on the margins.
-- "Bird unveils custom electric scooters and delivery," TechCrunch
-- "Bird Will Soon Start Delivering Electric Scooters To Users' Doorsteps," The Drive
-- "Long Beach Scooter Reviews: I crashed so you don't have to," Long Beach Press-Telegram
E-scooters are evolutionary not revolutionary, because they substitute or complement a narrow range of trips.
Unless DC is an outlier. It's not like you see dozens of people on scooters at one time in what I am now calling an example of "mass mobility." I've seen maybe 5-6 scooters in use at one time. And that's then, 6 people... and in the great scheme of things, that has little impact, although tremendous impact for the users.
Photo from a Vespa rally in Urbino. Photo: Urbino Project.
Two-wheeled sitting scooters as mass mobility: in Italy. Now that we have standing e-scooters, I guess we can call the Vespa type scooters "sitting scooters." They are more a substitute for cars, especially in Mediterranean climates.
According to the Daily Telegraph article, "Ban on Vespas in Italian city has scooters riders in revolt," there are 180,000 "sitting scooters" in Genoa, out of 600,000 people.
Apparently the gasoline powered Vespa type scooters are significant sources of air pollution (like lawn mower engines).
I guess we're going to have to change the term "bicycle and pedestrian planning" to "bicycle, pedestrian, and scooter planning."
Labels: bicycle and pedestrian planning, mobility as a service (MaaS), mobility shed, sustainable mobility platform, transportation as a service (TaaS), transportation planning, urban design/placemaking