Can micromobility be successful without an integrated, multimodal solution?

Recently we were privileged to welcome Dr Susan Kenyon to talk to us about how travel behaviour science can support MaaS. Susan is a UK based transport studies academic based at Canterbury Christ Church University, who has been working in the world of public transport since 1998.

She gave a fascinating insight into how vital behavioural change is in getting people to start to use mobile mobility platforms effectively. 

One of the messages from her presentation related to e-scooters and it reflected some of our current thinking about micromobility and how it fits, long term, into multimodal solutions and their relationship with mobile mobility platforms and apps, such as ours.

She said, “E-scooters move the same people around but quicker; we need longer-term strategies and changes to make this solution more sustainable and inclusive.”

There is no denying that the use of shared micromobility such as e-scooters is beginning to have a positive impact on how people move around and it starts to solve first/last mile options for a particular demographic of the community.

In a recent article published on StreetsBlog NYC, Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said that e-scooters are a more environmentally friendly option to solutions such as Uber and Lyft. However, he acknowledged e-scooters need to have an increased role in offering mobility solutions for neighbourhoods cut off from other forms of mass transit. This echoes what Dr Kenyon said regarding the reach of shared micromobility into the wider community. 

Currently there are a few trials for shared e-scooters happening in selected UK cities including Milton Keynes and Bath and Bristol. Currently only e-scooters that are part of a trial will be permitted on public roads in the UK. 

The trial in Bath and Bristol, which started on 29 October 2020, will run for one year and consists of a small number of scooters; 100 in Bristol and 50 in Bath operated by Swedish company, Voi. Whilst the trial has been planned for some time, the current COVID situation could well contribute to greater success.

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles said, “With social distancing in place on public transport, our e-scooter trial is a chance for us to try a new, low carbon way to get our region moving, particularly up and down the big hills we have both Bristol and Bath.

“Alongside Metrobus, our transformational MetroWest rail network and plans for a regional mass transit, we’re making it easier to get to the jobs and training opportunities that will secure our recovery.” (Source)

E-scooter services are usually accessed via the e-scooter provider’s app and in isolation to other public transport options. This is where we can see a problem getting people to integrate micromobility into a complete public transport journey. Without a clear connection between micromobility for short trips and other forms of public transport, it will be hard to encourage people to replace the use of private cars.

The solution to this is clear and something we have already implemented into our GoPass mobility platform in Dallas, Texas. The platform offers deep app linking which can connect with other relevant third party providers to give the user a seamless experience and the ability to plan, book and pay for an entire journey. Shared micromobility must be integrated real-time into a fully multimodal solution, showing the location of an available scooter, both for the first and last mile; and how this neatly fits into the rest of a journey, whether that is by bus, train or light rail or even microtransit. 

Mayor Tim Bowles indicated that the e-scooter trial in his area has the goal of integrating with current and future traditional public transit options. However again referring back to Dr Kenyon, she talked about the four As – acceptability, accessibility, affordability, availability and how these motivators are essential to getting people to change their behaviours towards any public transit use. 

Without an integrated, multimodal solution bringing micromobility into the complete public transit ecosystem, it will be hard to reach a wider group of users and thus the possibility of reaching any tangible goals.