Shared Mobility as Essential Transit

Research reveals that shared bikes and scooters are often a crucial lifeline for low-income workers, signaling a need to include micromobility in the larger public transit conversation.

2 minute read

September 21, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Bike share station on sidewalk next to red painted bike lane with white bikes parked at docks.

Cavan / Adobe Stock

A study of survey data from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand sheds light on how low-income people use shared micromobility services, indicating an opportunity for cities to improve transportation services for the workers who need them most.

Kea Wilson outlines the findings in Streetsblog USA, writing, “Participants in the Lime Access program, which grants discounts of around ‘70 or 80 percent’ to riders who qualify, were significantly more likely to list essential reasons like ‘shopping’ for groceries (35 percent) and ‘commuting’ (31 percent) than non-Access riders, 11 and 21 percent of whom rode to complete errands or go to work, respectively.”

The study found that lower-income users were very unlikely to use shared mobility for non-essential reasons. “And a whopping 44 percent of their trips connected to a traditional transit ride, compared to just 23 percent of people who paid full price.”

As Wilson notes, “Perhaps the most surprising findings, though, were riders' qualitative responses about what micromobility meant to them, and how their lives were made better by having access to affordable ways to get around without a car.” According to Calvin Thigpen, director of policy research for Lime and co-author of the report, “People are using this to get around for pivotal trips; they are heavy, often daily users.”

However, most U.S. bike share systems are not subsidized by public funding, meaning any equity programs cut into the operators’ profit margins. Planetizen recently covered Houston BCycle’s decision to shut down that program due to funding problems. For Thigpen and other advocates, this signals a need to support and fund shared mobility programs as an integral component of an accessible, comprehensive public transit system.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023 in Streetsblog USA

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