Micromobility and Transit Worksheets and References
- Date: March 30, 2023
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Is Micromobility Right for You?
Is there a market for micromobility in your area? And if there is, what varieties of stakeholder inputs do you need to consider? Jurisdictions should develop goals for implementing a program (e.g., reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips, providing multi-modal options or recreational opportunities, connecting to transit, addressing first and last mile trips, etc.) and evaluate the extent to which programs can help achieve these goals.
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has published Opportunities for State DOTs (and others) to Encourage Shared-Use Mobility Practices in Rural Areas (NCHRP 20-65 Task 76), which includes a rural shared use mobility toolkit to help guide decision-making in developing shared use mobility in rural settings (NCHRP 2019). Some key considerations for evaluating the feasibility and success of potential micromobility programs are discussed below.
Before embarking on micromobility, it is important to consider whether a micromobility program is appropriate for your community. Micromobility exists in a variety of contexts but performs best in areas with a high concentration of destinations located within close proximity to one another. It is important to consider your market, including who would use the service and the types of trips they make take. Some key considerations include:
- What are the population and employment densities in your potential micromobility market? Low density areas may struggle to produce suitable ridership.
- Does the market have an abundance of mixed-use land uses (including housing, employment sites, schools, grocery stores, and major retail and restaurant corridors)?
- Among existing trips in the market, how many are under three miles in length? How many are under one mile? Micromobility largely serves shorter trips.
- Does the market have any tourist and leisure destinations? Many micromobility programs succeed by attracting recreational trips from residents and visitors.
- Are there key institutional anchors such as a local college or university which can help drive ridership?
- Is there already a propensity of people who bike or scooter? Some indicators may be number of carless households, bike/walk commute mode share, the presence of bike shops, bike trails or lanes, or public bike racks.
If it is determined that there is a market for micromobility, then planners must consider if the jurisdiction is able to support the start-up and operation of such a program. Jurisdictions should ask themselves:
- Does the program have a sustainable source of funding to cover future operations and maintenance, aside from the initial start-up costs?
- Does existing infrastructure help support a micromobility program (e.g., safe sidewalks, a connected network of bike lanes, available right-of-way (ROW) for stations, etc.)? If not, can projects be included in upcoming capital improvement budgets (with the caveat that they may take years to build)?
- Are there local partners that may support the program (e.g., cycling non-profits, neighboring jurisdictions that may share costs, sponsors, etc.)?
- Is there support from residents, businesses, politicians, and local stakeholders for a system?
- Is there buy-in among staff in the jurisdiction’s departments (e.g., finance, maintenance, public works, etc.)?
- Does the jurisdiction have adequate staffing to establish a micromobility program (e.g., vendor procurement, in-house maintenance or operations, etc.)?
- What accommodations need to be made for populations without smartphones or mobile data?
- Will the program have accommodations for persons with disabilities, for example providing adaptive bicycles?
- What mechanisms can be established to assure that the program is equitable?
If it is determined that the jurisdiction is able to support the micromobility program, then jurisdictions must set certain goals related to the user experience to ensure that the system is actually used and becomes successful. Jurisdictions should consider:
- Where are docking stations and/or other designated docking areas?
- What is the user experience when using micromobility?
- Who is the target audience for micromobility? Is the proposed system designed to meet their needs?
- Does micromobility allow users to connect to other modes of travel or other areas within the region?
- How easily can a user use the service (e.g., integration with transit app, easy check-out/payment)?
- Do potential users have access to a smartphone and high-speed data?
Finally, jurisdictions should be aware of what potential vendors may be considering before deciding to partner with the jurisdiction in establishing the micromobility service. These considerations may include:
- Will the market support a financially sustainable business model, especially in lower density areas?
- Are there ways to partner with transit agencies, which may have more long-term, stable funding available?
- Does the jurisdiction have infrastructure that would support micromobility?
Regulations and Permitting
Local jurisdictions are frequently the body that regulates micromobility. Jurisdictions regulate new and existing development and the usage of public space, including right of way, and set public policy. They may determine the application process for micromobility vendors, operating fees and terms, the conditions to which vendors must adhere, and the costs vendors may incur (ROW provision, signage, etc.) to establish operations. Vendors, partners, and transit agencies are the ones that must follow these regulations.
Approaches to Micromobility
Jurisdictions should consider their overall attitude and approach towards supporting and regulating micromobility, which can steer subsequent regulations and permitting. The American Planning Association’s Planning for Shared Mobility (2019) lays out three frameworks to describe the extent to which jurisdictions can view and support shared mobility:
- An environmental benefit with maximum governmental support.
- A sustainable business with moderate governmental support
- A business with minimal governmental support.
Deloitte Insights summarizes possible approaches to regulating micromobility on a sliding scale of regulation. These approaches include:
- Jurisdictions entering into a public-private partnership with a vendor.
- A more open approach with limited regulations, in particular for new markets.
- Express bans with potential impoundments.
- A formal, permitting process for which vendors must adhere to a jurisdiction’s set of rules.
Common Regulatory and Permitting Requirements
The Shared Use Mobility Center (SUMC) maintains a searchable, international Micromobility Policy Atlas of shared bike, e-bike, and scooter policies that may also serve as examples. The National Association of City Transportation Officials developed guidelines for regulating shared micromobility.
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|Data Sharing and Standards||
This worksheet is a quick reference guide to the key steps to implement micromobility. While any implementation plan starts with the same set of basic questions, the overall approach diverges based on whether an organization is looking to create a program of their own or merely hoping to regulate or permit a program operated by someone else.
Note that this worksheet captures common steps to implementing micromobility. There are a wide range of approaches and strategies to implementing micromobility and organizations interested in implementing such a program may deviate from the checklist below.
Finally, community engagement should occur throughout the planning process. Community buy-in is easiest achieved if engagement starts early and occurs often.
Step 1: Create the Plan
Many successful micromobility programs begin with a fundamental planning process that identifies what the community hopes to achieve with micromobility, the market demand for such a system, and potential paths for moving forward, including:
- Identify key community stakeholders to involve in the micromobility planning process. In addition to transit providers, this may include the affected jurisdictions, key local advocates, the business community, and key institutions.
- Define your goals for micromobility. What do you want to achieve with a program? How would you define a successful program? What are the key factors that would make or break micromobility in your community
- Identify your target market for micromobility. Where would the program succeed in the service area? How could micromobility compliment or enhance transit services? Who would use the program?
- Determine basic geographic scope and size of the program. Does the service area require a large system to be effective? Are there opportunities for a more targeted pilot?
- Explore the willingness of key stakeholders to be program partners, either through the administration, funding, or promotion of micromobility. Developing partnerships with stakeholders is a long-term process and its helpful to bring potential partners in early to the planning process to build that relationship.
Step 2: Develop Business Model
- Determine ownership and governance model. Will micromobility be owned and operated by private company, public entity, or as a public-private partnership? Who is responsible for program oversight and regulation? Who is responsible for day-to-day decision-making?
- Identify who will operate the program. In the case of private operations, will there be a single exclusive operator or multiple firms permitted to operate (and potentially compete with one another) in the community.
- Identify the types of technology to be used by the system. What are the high-level constraints placed around technology, including type of vehicles (e.g., bikes and scooters), whether it is docked or dockless or a combination, and whether the program will rely on one technology platform or a variety of solutions.
- Develop a funding approach. Will the program rely on a private operator to run a completely financially self-sustaining system? Will resources like sponsorships, advertising, and public funds be made available?
Step 3: Implement Business Model
- Finalize program governance and establish group responsible for overseeing system implementation.
- Direct Ownership Model
Finalize initial program financial plan.
- Initiate fundraising plan, including acquisition of program sponsor(s), advertisers, and donors.
- Draft procurement document based on selected operations and ownership model. Ensure procurement reflect desired operating requirements.
- Complete program procurement.
License and Permitting Model
- Finalize operating requirements and constraints. How many operators will be permitted to operate? Will there be a cap on system size? What specific permit requirements will the jurisdiction place on the operator?
- Depending on circumstances, initiate a competitive or open bidding process for micromobility operators. Note many systems elect to start the program as a pilot with a fixed end date.
Step 4: Countdown to Launch
- Initiate launch-focused community engagement, including feedback on station locations (if applicable). Ensure there is adequate dialogue with individuals or groups directly impacted by program implementation (e.g., property owners adjacent to station location)
- Initiate marketing and promotion of the program, including engagement with the potential ridership market.
- Complete installation of necessary infrastructure such as signage, sidewalk/roadway markings, and stations.
- Initiate rider education. Communicate to the public how to use micromobility services, including guidance on user safety, rules, and regulations.
Micromobility and Equity
Micromobility, in theory, should be a benefit to mobility for disadvantaged populations (based on income, race, gender, ability status, etc.), as it is a relatively inexpensive alternative to using a private vehicle. However, in practice, micromobility users are disproportionately white, higher-income, younger, educated, and male, compared to the populations in the areas the systems serve (McNeil, et al. 2019).
The barriers to equitable micromobility usage are many: stations and vehicles not available in lower-income and minority neighborhoods; too expensive; not accessible without a smartphone and/or credit card; lack of familiarity with micromobility; lack of sufficient bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and other recreational opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods; vehicles are not accessible to disabled people; and more. The following sections offer possible solutions for communities to surmount these barriers when implementing micromobility.
Strategies to Overcome Barriers
Physical access barriers
One of the first requirements to promoting equitable micromobility usage is ensuring that sufficient stations and/or vehicles are located in areas that are underserved and disadvantaged. Some best practices include:
- Soliciting extensive community engagement and input to guide station and vehicle placement – this can take the form of in-person workshops, digital and paper surveys, virtual meetings, and more. It is important that public engagement information is widely distributed through a variety of means, not just digital. Additionally, in-person meetings should be hosted at times and locations that are convenient and accessible.
- Responding to community needs and desires, especially in underserved neighborhoods and other key destinations for: employment, education, healthcare, groceries, and other community and civic resources.
- Stations in locations aimed at equity populations may generate less revenue, and therefore it may be necessary to offset the cost by soliciting grants from foundations or seeking additional funding and partnerships.
Micromobility systems may be too expensive for lower-income residents – a ten-minute trip on some scooter services cost more than $5! Some best practices to overcome cost barriers include:
- Income-based discount programs or subsidized weekly/monthly/annual passes. Eligibility for these programs is often determined by participation in other assistance programs, such as local transit discount programs, SNAP, Medicaid, public housing, or Social Security.
- Varying pricing by station/vehicle location: stations located in low-income areas or near places that employ many low-income workers have lower prices compared to those in higher-income or tourist areas.
- Free bike libraries: allowing users to “check-out” a bike for free with only an ID or library card, usually for days or weeks at a time. Typical rental locations include public libraries and community centers among others.
Payment System Barriers
Micromobility devices often require a credit card and/or a smartphone to rent, which many people do not have access to based on income, job status, immigration status, etc. Some ways to circumvent this include:
- Issuing payment cards that can be used to unlock vehicles and can be reloaded with cash, usually at local business, community centers, or micromobility system offices.
- Partnering with local transit agencies to use one payment card for transit and micromobility that can be reloaded with cash at transit stops or onboard transit vehicles.
- Once again, free bike libraries: allowing users to “check-out” a bike for free with only an ID or library card, usually for days or weeks at a time. Typical rental locations include public libraries and community centers among others.
Lack of familiarity with micromobility and/or lack of awareness of programs to make micromobility more accessible discourage many from using the system. To raise awareness and help people become comfortable with micromobility, the following practices are helpful:
- Sending program ambassadors to community events to provide system information, connect with people, and provide an opportunity to try micromobility devices. It is especially beneficial when ambassadors are members of the community.
- Hosting events, such as educational programs on how to ride a bike or scooter, how to ride in city traffic, and how to access/use micromobility devices.
- Hosting organized rides to provide a safe and comfortable environment for people to become familiar with micromobility.
- Partnering with local organizations, such as churches, schools, community centers, and local bikeshops to support outreach and education programming.
- Performing outreach online or in-person, especially in disadvantaged communities or at/near health, employment, education, community, and government institutions.
- Ensuring that all outreach materials are provided in multiple languages that are common among populations in the area.
- Partnering with local bike shops and community organizations to provide skills-based workforce development programs and workshops that both make the agency more visible in the community and creates a talent pipeline for community members to work for the agency.
Typical micromobility devices available in the U.S. today are bikes and scooters, which require the user to pedal or stand and are not accessible to many people with disabilities and older adults. Some more accessible vehicles to consider for a system include:
- Electric bicycles, which give the user a boost either through pedal assist or a handlebar throttle. Electric bicycles are very popular in systems that have them and provide an enhanced experience for older users or those who do not cycle frequently; in hilly or more spread-out areas with longer trips; or simply for anyone who does not wish to exercise and get sweaty on their commute.
- Scooters with seats, which enable the user to sit down for the duration of their ride instead of standing on the platform.
- Other adaptive vehicles are less common but include tricycles, hand cycles, recumbent bicycles, and three- or four-wheeled scooters.
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- City of Willmar. 2021. Annual Budget 2022. December 6. https://cms5.revize.com/revize/cityofwillmar/Mayor’s%202022%20Proposed%20Bu_001.pdf.
- Department of Energy. 2018. “In 2017 Nearly 60% of All Vehicle Trips Were Less Than Six MIles.” United States Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewal Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office. August 13. https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/articles/fotw-1042-august-13-2018-2017-nearly-60-all-vehicle-trips-were-less-six-miles.
- District Department of Transportation. 2021. “Dockless Scooter Terms and Conditions.” December 14. https://ddot.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddot/page_content/attachments/2021.12.14%20Final%20Dockless%20Scooter%20Terms%20and%20Conditions.pdf.
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