Shared electric scooters (e-scooters) are fast becoming a mobility option across the U.S. Many cities are permitting their operation, in part, as a way to provide another option to driving private cars. This could reduce private vehicle miles travelled (VMT), congestion, and emissions, helping cities meet major policy objectives. In the Spring 2019, the City of Portland will be launching a yearlong shared e-scooter pilot program. The city is expecting to have multiple companies providing service in the city starting with 2,500 e-scooters in service. The city’s program will focus on giving people access to a new transportation option while also ensuring that e-scooters will support five critical City goals:
1) Increase the share of trips made using active and low-carbon transportation modes;
2) Prevent fatalities and serious injuries on Portland streets;
3) Improve pedestrian safety, accessibility, and convenience for people of all ages and abilities;
4) Provide equitable transportation services; and
5) Reduce air pollution, including climate pollution (1).
Early evidence from Portland’s first pilot indicates that some people are using scooters to replace trips that would otherwise be made in their own car or a ride-hailing car, thus reducing VMT. However, the total VMT impacts of scooter systems need to account for fleet operations. There are various business operation models for shared scooter systems. Some companies employ people (chargers) thru the gig economy to collect scooters with low batteries, charge them and put them back into service, while other companies use internal operations, company vehicles and employees. Determining the VMT of scooter operations is a high priority of the City of Portland during this second pilot program.
The primary objective of this research is to quantify the impacts of scooter operations on VMT. Additionally, we will be looking to better understand the internal operations and business models of scooter companies, particularly the people participating in the charging of scooters. The results will estimate the impacts of the charging operations and provide suggestions for best practices and opportunities for cities to include in permits, policies, incentives and regulations to minimize any negative impacts.