Policy

A New Partnership Model: Portland’s Leadership in Promoting Safe and Affordable Transportation

The ongoing pandemic has spurred cities like Portland, Oregon, and private micromobility providers like Spin to rethink and reimagine — out of necessity and creativity — micromobility partnerships to ensure both mobility access and a sustainable model that communities can rely on over the long run.

Spin’s recent partnership with the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in response to COVID-19 may very well be the first case study in the United States that demonstrates the promise of these creative micromobility partnerships.

Portland saw dramatic drop-offs in transit ridership as the pandemic’s onset in March brought stay-at-home orders, with the regional transit agency, Trimet, forced to cut service. While Spin experienced similar reductions in usage, the fact that its shared scooters provided an open-air, physically distant transportation option allowed Spin and PBOT to join together on an innovative partnership.

“As this healthcare crisis emerged, we knew Portlanders would need access to transportation for critical trips,” said Dylan Rivera, a PBOT spokesperson. “We appreciate Spin’s partnership, which lowered the cost for e-scooter use for all Portlanders and provided an outdoor, healthy transportation option, as other options became more limited. We look forward to seeing how e-scooters help meet community needs, as we look to reopening.”

For Spin, it meant bringing its Everyday Heroes program, which provides free rides and helmets for frontline healthcare workers; committing to a minimum level of service in how scooters are deployed for the public, especially in areas where mobility access is limited; and reducing all rider trip fares by 50 percent.

Our Everyday Heroes program helped get essential workers to and from their jobs in a safe, affordable way.

For PBOT, the partnership meant reducing or temporarily waiving the fees it normally requires from Spin as a shared micromobility operator, as well as allowing Spin to increase its overall fleet size by 250 scooters.

In both cases, Spin and PBOT agreed to go beyond their legally required obligations under the existing permit framework. In return, the Spin-PBOT partnership allowed both parties to ensure readily available access to safe mobility in the midst of a public-health crisis, while also helping to ensure an economically viable operational model for Spin.

The results of this unique public-private partnership speak for themselves. When comparing data from Portland before and after the partnership was implemented (Feb. 1 — Mar. 21 and Apr. 6 — May 25), Spin and PBOT saw:

  • a 46 percent increase in overall ridership;
  • a 137 percent increase in ridership in East Portland — a priority underserved area;
  • a 35 percent increase in average daily new users; and
  • a 60 percent increase in average trip distance.
Above is a look at ridership levels in East Portland before and after the April 6 start of our partnership with PBOT. Note the visible increase in rides. Visualization by Julio May, Urban Planning GIS Specialist at Spin.

The lesson here seems clear, and it shows PBOT’s foresight in developing an innovative good-faith micromobility partnership with Spin that hadn’t been done before in the United States.

Spin is excited to explore these types of creative partnerships with additional city partners across the United States and globally — all thanks to PBOT’s leadership and willingness to partner on new models that will inevitably encourage a more sustainable shared-micromobility industry moving forward.

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