New tools can operationalize equity in 239 U.S. e-scooter and bike-share programs

Shared micromobility programs for electric scooters and self-service bicycles are increasing every year. How can we ensure that they are not only used for fun, but are also a priority for those who need a fast, affordable and accessible way to get around? A team of researchers collected documentation on the equity requirements of 239 shared micromobility programs across the United States and compiled all the data into an online dashboard, which city officials can use to find out what other cities of a similar size are doing. Attempts at equity in one city can pave the way for expanded opportunities in another.

Keeping a focus on equity can make this new technology is obtainable and affordable, and could improve the lives of people with disabilities, low-income people, those without access to a smart phone, and those who live in neighborhoods without good access to public transport. Led by Anne Brown and Amanda Howell of the University of Oregon, with Hana Creger of the Greenlining Institute, the latest report from the Countrywide Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) took steps to operationalize equity in these programs: In other words, simplifying for cities, agencies, and mobility providers to ensure their e-scooter and self-parking bike programs serve the communities that need them most.

“Our hope is that companies its or cities starting a new program can use the dashboard and find specific language for equity requirements in other comparable cities. Micromobility companies are now going to smaller communities, but their staff often don’t have the bandwidth to dig deep into what other places are doing,” Brown said.

Dashboard filters allow user to sort by mode, city population size and specific program requirements. Rather than reinventing the wheel, cities looking to introduce a new program or redesign their existing micromobility services can quickly scan the dashboard and get detailed information on discount fare programs, geographic distribution, adapted vehicles , cash payment options, alternatives to smartphones, targeted marketing and awareness. and multilingual services.

Researchers also created a Shared Micromobility Equity Assessment Tool, which allows equity program managers to see their “score » equity in three key areas: process, implementation and evaluation.

So what are cities doing for equity, from now ?

Researchers found that fairness requirements were common, but far from universal. On the 62 programs they have studied, 62 of them (approximately 62%) had equity requirements. Other cities and agencies had language recommending, encouraging, or stating that equity-based program elements were desirable, but did not require operators to implement them.

The most common equity requirements, in bike share and e-scooter programs, were those targeting implementation equity, as depicted in the graph above, process requirements and evaluation being less common. In the area of ​​implementation equity, cities most often include requirements related to access to technology, such as the requirement for alternative smartphone access (found in 62% of programs), cash payment options (32%) and a reduced rate solution (32 %)..

The least common requirement, found in only 5% of programs, was the requirement to include vehicles adapted for people with disabilities.

Equity requirements have been found to be more common among e-scooter programs than bike-sharing programs , although joint micromobility programs (electric scooter plus self-service bikes) are the most likely to have equity requirements. Most cities and agencies that enact equity requirements focus on expanding access to shared micromobility companies less evaluate shared micromobility outcomes.

“Unfortunately, there is always a disconnect between objectives, implementation and results. For example, cities want to expand access, so they will have a reduced rate requirement, but they don’t really collect data to understand the use of these programs. So how effective are these programs? This is an issue that is still very difficult to answer because most places are not collecting the data they need to answer these questions,” Howell said.

How can cities go further in micromobility equity?

Cities and agencies vary widely in their approach to advancing equity in shared micromobility programs. The research team identified some promising approaches, including:

  • Combine the operational incentives to desired equity outcomes: This helps to ensure that there is a clear arc linking specific objectives to program requirements
  • Dedicate staff time and resources to manage shared micromobility programs: Cities whose staff are dedicated to promoting equity in shared micromobility programs play a key role in implementing strong equity offerings
  • Match each program requirement with data collection Targeted: Data is needed to assess the extent to which each requirement is meeting its objectives
  • Conduct transparent assessments: Clear assessments will help measure progress and identify future avenues for improvement. ration or iteration
  • Define program objectives and agree on a common definition of equity : Cities, no matter how strong their city- or program-level goals, should strengthen the links between the stated goals of the micromobility program, the required equity components, and the data collected
  • Moving to a Community Empowerment Model: Overall, the cities and agencies interviewed for this project n did not carry out a mobility needs assessment before launching a shared micromobility program. These assessments help identify and understand unmet needs in the community and develop options in partnership with those community members. An assessment could determine how a micromobility program would fit into the larger context of community priorities — or even if it was a priority. Significant changes are needed in the way they include community input, dedicating resources to open mobility needs assessments

Finally, cities must associate program-specific initiatives to the broader efforts needed to truly advance equity. Even the most accessible shared micromobility programs cannot compensate for missing infrastructure or unsafe streets. In the words of one service provider the researchers spoke to: carriers “can bring data to the desk,” but they “can’t provide the money or the political will to make the big changes in infrastructure that are needed.”

Brown and Howell will present an overview of their findings and demonstrate both tools online in a free webinar on 21 september 2022.

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