Lengthy-Time Transit Advocate Eyes New York Metropolis E-Scooter Pilot
Hyperlink e-scooters on the transfer (photograph: @LINK_Scooters)
New York Metropolis is about to solicit bids for a brand new electrical scooter sharing program that would ultimately rework town’s micro-mobility panorama. One agency that plans to hunt a metropolis contract believes it has the observe document to show itself and create a community of e-scooters that will probably be sustainable and accessible to communities of colour which were underserved by town’s mass transit system.
For years, transit advocates clamored for the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters, which was lastly permitted by each the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo on this yr’s state price range in April. In June, the New York Metropolis Council handed laws establishing native rules in addition to mandating an e-scooter sharing pilot program for at the very least one yr and two years at most. Beneath the laws, the Division of Transportation is required to concern a Request for Proposals (RFP) on October 15, with the goal of launching this system by March 1, 2021.
The e-scooter program is supposed to supply a brand new choice for getting round, particularly in environmentally-friendly trend, and to fill the gaps in transit options, notably in neighborhoods that at the moment aren’t served by Citi Bike’s bicycle-share system.
“Now greater than ever New York Metropolis wants transportation choices, particularly micro mobility which is inexpensive, accessible, environmentally pleasant and permits protected distancing to stop the unfold of COVID-19,” mentioned Metropolis Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat who sponsored the laws, in an announcement. Although Cabrera acknowledged that town faces price range constraints that Division of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has raised considerations about, he urged the administration to create a program that “is as broad as potential to check and distinction ends in totally different communities and develop finest practices, notably round storage of scooters.”
A DOT spokesperson acknowledged a request for remark from Gotham Gazette however didn’t present one.
Transit advocates are desperate to see this system rise up and operating, notably because the pandemic has modified how New Yorkers reside and commute throughout town. Subway and bus ridership have but to recuperate again to pre-pandemic ranges whereas bike ridership has boomed. This system can be one more reason for town to reimagine its streetscapes, they are saying, with a watch to creating extra room for micro-mobility and lowering New Yorkers’ reliance on automobiles.
Though late to the sport of micro-mobility, New York Metropolis has the benefit of being a horny marketplace for firms due to its density and connectivity with mass transit, particularly as e-scooter utilization has elevated dramatically over the previous couple of years – in keeping with a report from the Nationwide Affiliation of Metropolis Transportation Officers, there have been 38.5 million journeys on shared e-scooters in 2018 throughout the nation, out of 84 million shared micro-mobility journeys.
Paul Steely White, a longtime transit advocate, is now the director of growth and public affairs at Superpedestrian, a Boston-based agency that launched its personal e-scooter service, Hyperlink. The agency, a “second mover” within the micro-mobility market, has gained contracts in cities that embrace Seattle, Salt Lake Metropolis, and Rome, and now has its eyes set on New York, the place there’s prone to be intense competitors to win town contract for a pilot e-scooter program.
In a telephone interview, White mentioned that his agency could also be an “underdog” but it surely has an edge over a few of its extra outstanding rivals like Hen, Lime, Lyft, and Spin, that are all anticipated to use with town. Hyperlink’s chief promoting level, White mentioned, is its personal e-scooter constructed from scratch that doesn’t undergo from points that make different e-scooters unsafe and unsustainable. He mentioned the scooter’s “secret sauce” is its patented “Automobile Intelligence System,” which displays issues of safety, with the battery or electrical parts for example, and may repair them robotically.
“In order that signifies that it is a safer automobile. However it additionally means it is cheaper to function the fleets,” he mentioned. “The most important value that Hen and Lime and actually any shared mobility operator incurs is in upkeep and spare elements and depreciation.” White beforehand labored for Hen. Decrease working prices additionally imply that Hyperlink can supply companies in areas that different corporations might keep away from due to an absence of profitability.
Hyperlink’s scooters even have a geofencing system, which determines the parameters of the place the autos may be operated, that’s native to the scooter fairly than based mostly on smartphone apps which have to speak by means of the cloud. That permits Hyperlink scooters to extra shortly stop individuals from touring into restricted zones similar to roads or sidewalks, he mentioned, and permits for self-enforcement that can assist alleviate the necessity for town crackdown on errant scooter riders. The geofencing can kick in in lower than a second, in comparison with virtually 30 seconds for different scooter firms, in keeping with a Hyperlink presentation offered to Gotham Gazette.
That final level would possible work in Hyperlink’s favor. In a listening to earlier than the Metropolis Council final month, Trottenberg warned that price range cuts to her division meant it was short-staffed and should not be capable to monitor the rollout of the e-scooter program. “I don’t actually have the personnel to do all these packages in addition to I wish to,” Trottenberg mentioned, in keeping with a New York Daily News report.
White famous that Hyperlink additionally doesn’t have to depend on shortly capturing market share however as an alternative is concentrated on offering reliable companies. Early adopters like Hen and Lime, he mentioned, “have been trying to the Uber and Lyft playbook of market share because the aim. However what they missed was that which may work for a pure tech firm or software program firm, however these are transportation firms working within the public realm. A lot extra necessary than market share is complying with the rules and metropolis guidelines.”
There are prone to be challenges for town in addition to staffing. Although the DOT has put in greater than 400 miles of motorcycle lanes below de Blasio, town’s bike infrastructure stays woefully insufficient to deal with a crush of recent bicycle and scooter riders. E-scooter gross sales have already shot by means of the roof, according to a Streetsblog report.
“There’s by no means been a time when New Yorkers have been in search of new methods to get round just like the time we’re in proper now,” mentioned Joe Cutrufo, communications director at Transportation Options, an advocacy group the place White served as govt director for almost 15 years.
Cutrufo criticized town for not prioritizing scooters and bicycles as modes of transit in the course of the pandemic, notably as individuals proceed to be cautious of taking the subway. “This could have been a precedence for the DOT and admittedly, it is a disgrace that it isn’t,” he mentioned, noting that final yr additionally noticed essentially the most bike owner fatalities in 20 years. “The pandemic hit. The mayor mentioned stroll or bike to work when you can. Properly, what did he do to attempt to make it safer for individuals to have the ability to do this? Not a lot.”
He mentioned town must capitalize each on the rising demand for e-scooters in addition to the altering use of curbside actual property triggered by outside eating. However he appeared skeptical of the mayor’s dedication to it. “The reality of the matter is that if we have now the infrastructure to separate cyclists and scooter riders from motor autos, we’re setting some of these packages up for achievement,” mentioned Cutrufo. “I do not know if the mayor sees issues that manner. He seems on the danger as one thing that he has no management over.”