New York City is bidding for a new electric scooter sharing program and has created a network of electric scooters
New York City is about to launch a new electric scooter sharing program that could eventually transform the city's miniature mobility landscape.One company that plans to seek city contracts believes it has a proven track record and has created a network of electric scooters that will be sustainable and serve communities of color that are underserved by the city's public transportation system.
Transit advocates have been calling for the legalization of electric bikes and scooters for years, and it was finally approved by the legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo in the state budget in April.In June, the New York City Council passed a law establishing local regulations and mandated a pilot program for electric scooter-sharing for at least a year and two years.By law, the Department of Transportation must issue a request for proposals (RFP) by October 15, with a view to initiating the program by March 1, 2021.
The electric scooter program is designed to provide new options for travel, especially in an environmentally friendly way, and to fill gaps in bus alternatives, especially in communities where Citi Bikes' bike-sharing system is not currently available.
"Now, more than ever, New York City needs more transportation options, especially micro-modes of transportation that are affordable, accessible, environmentally friendly and allow safe transportation to prevent the spread of COVID-19," said Bronx Democratic City Councilman Fernando Cabrera.Legislation, in a statement.While acknowledging that the city faces budget constraints from Polly Trottenberg, the transport commissioner, Cabrera urged the government to develop a "plan as broad as possible to compare and contrast results from different communities and develop best practices, in particular for scooter storage".
A DOT spokeswoman acknowledged that the Gotham Gazette had requested comment but did not provide any.
Bus advocates are eager to see the program up and running, especially as the pandemic changes the way New Yorkers live and commute in the city.Subways and buses have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but bicycles are growing fast.They say the plan is another reason for the city's streetscape to be reshaped to create more space for micro-transportation and reduce New Yorkers' dependence on cars.
Although in the latter stages of the micro-transportation game, New York City still has the advantage of attracting companies because of its density and connectivity to mass transit, especially in the last few years, the use of electric scooter designs has increased dramatically.According to a report by the National Association of Urban Transportation Officials, 38.5 million Shared electric scooter trips were made in 2018 out of 84 million Shared micro-journeys across the country.
Paul Steely White, a long-time bus enthusiast and now director of development and public affairs at Boston-based Superpedestrian, which has launched its own electric scooter service, Link.The company is a "second mover" in the micro-transport market, having won contracts in cities such as Seattle, Salt Lake City and Rome, and is now looking to New York, where the competition is likely to be fierce for electric scooter-pilot city contracts.
White said in a telephone interview that his company may be a "loser," but it has an advantage over more famous competitors like Byrd, Lyme, Left and Spine, all of which are expected to be used in the city.Mr. White says Link's main selling point is its own scooters, which from scratch won't suffer from the problems that make other scooters unsafe and unsustainable.The scooter's "secret sauce", he says, is its patented "vehicle intelligence system", which monitors safety issues such as batteries or electrical components and can fix them automatically.
"So that means it's a safer vehicle.But it also means it's cheaper to run a fleet."He said."The biggest costs incurred by Bird and Lime and virtually any ride-sharing operator are maintenance, spare parts and depreciation."Mr. White previously worked for Bird.Lower operating costs also mean Link can provide services in areas that other companies can avoid due to a lack of profitability.
Link's scooter design also has geo-fencing, which determines the parameters of where the vehicle can operate, which is native to the scooter rather than based on a smartphone application that must communicate through the cloud.He said this would allow Lincoln scooters to prevent people from entering restricted areas, such as roads or sidewalks, more quickly, and allow self-policing, which would help ease a city crackdown on the wrong skateboarders.According to a Link demo provided by the Gotham Gazette, geofencing can be started in less than a second, compared to nearly 30 seconds for other scooter companies.
Link may benefit from this last point.At a city council hearing last month, Trottenberg warned that budget cuts to her department meant it was short-staffed and might not be able to monitor the rollout of the electric scooter scheme."I really don't have the talent to do all these scenarios and I think," Trottenberg said, according to the New York Daily News.
Mr White points out that Link does not need to rely on rapid market share and is focused on providing reliable services.Early adopters like Bird and Lime have targeted Uber and Lyft's market share, he says.But what they miss is that it might work for pure technology companies or software companies, which are transportation companies operating in the public domain.Compliance with regulations and city regulations is much more important than market share."
In addition to staffing, the city may face challenges.Although DOT has installed more than 400 miles of bike lanes under DE Blasio, the city's bike infrastructure is still woefully inadequate to handle the flood of new cyclists and skateboarders.Sales of electric scooters have soared, Streetsblog reports.
"New Yorkers have never been looking for new ways to travel," says Joe Cutrufo, director of communications at Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group.White served as executive Director of the organization for nearly 15 years.
Cutrufo criticised the city for not using scooters and bicycles as a way to cross the border during the pandemic, especially as people continued to be wary of using the metro."This should be a top priority for the Department of Transport," he said. "It's a shame it's not."He noted that last year was also the deadliest for cyclists in 20 years."The impact of the pandemic.Walk or bike to work if you can, the mayor says.Well, what did he do so that people could do it safely?"
He said the city needs to take advantage of the growing demand for electric scooters and changes in the use of roadside real estate caused by alfresco dining.But he appeared to doubt the mayor's promise."The truth of the matter is that if we had the infrastructure to separate cyclists and skateboarders from cars, we would set up these types of programs for success," Cutrufo said."I don't know if the mayor sees things that way.He thinks the risks are beyond his control."