There are potential benefits associated with integrating micromobility into transportation systems, including last mile transportation, environmental sustainability, local employment, transportation equity, and increased safety.
Last Mile Transportation
It is not possible for every potential transit user to live within a feasible walking distance from a bus stop or transit station; micromobility has the potential to extend the range of these users. This could be a major breakthrough for public transportation, since the last mile can be the most difficult and expensive to solve as it is often farthest from the center of transit. However, initial evidence suggests that the real-world use of micromobility in this context has been limited. For instance, the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation in Oregon reported that based on their survey data, only 8% of respondents reported using e-scooters to access transit, and that a very small percentage of usage (0.5-1.9%) occurred along transit lines.
When people use e-scooters, they are often replacing another form of transportation. When the transportation being replaced is an automobile, this can result in considerably less environmental impact. Automobiles are inherently inefficient for short trips with single occupants, and many of these trips can be replaced using micromobility. Since 35% of all US car trips are under 2 miles, many car trips are viable for replacement by micromobility.
Shared micromobility systems require staff to complete many jobs related to distribution and customer service. These jobs can offer career paths for under-served residents when companies commit to equitable hiring practices and providing fair wages and good working conditions. One way that cities can incentivize this is to offer additional allotment of e-scooters to companies that created partnerships with workforce development organizations to hire traditionally underserved people. Another potential impact shared micromobility can have on cities is improving access to employment. However, a concern is that many micromobility-related jobs are temporary independent contractor (or gig work), which lack stability, but cities can require providers to provide permanent and full-time employment. Providing viable employment options to the community is likely to improve perceptions of micromobility providers and their relationships with the communities they serve.
While safety is certainly a concern, there is evidence that replacing automobile trips with micromobility will increase overall transportation safety. By replacing car trips with e-scooter trips, e-scooter use could potentially contribute to an overall reduction in injuries and fatalities compared to the status quo. As more people use micromobility like e-bikes and e-scooters, road safety for these devices may improve through the “safety in numbers” effect, a well-documented effect where increased numbers of cyclists or pedestrians don’t lead to proportional increases in cyclist or pedestrian related accidents, so that the overall risk per user goes down. As people become more familiar with various micromobility devices, appropriate expectations for their presence and behaviors increases.