For the last five years, the District of Columbia has been a leader in developing reasonable and performance-based policies that meaningfully improve micromobility and advance public safety. Several examples come to mind, including the recent introduction of a lock-to parking requirement for all e-scooters and e-bikes and a reduction in the number of operators to a more reasonable level (from 6+ to 4 companies) that provides plenty of competition without over-saturation.
More recently, the District has led the way when it comes to putting in place incentive-based policies that reward private mobility companies for following through on their equity commitments. The reasoning here is simple: Companies can promise or profess to prioritize equity all they want, but what really matters is how often lower-income people actually use their services to get around. That figure is a measurable outcome that can be tracked and evaluated.
Specifically, the DDOT Director is now empowered to waive permit fees for shared micromobility companies on a sliding scale based on the total miles traveled on e-scooters and e-bikes by those enrolled in low-income programs offered by Spin and other operators. The more low-income people ride, in other words, the greater the commensurate fee waiver available. This incentive-based policy is outlined in the following chart below, which comes from Subsection 3314.31of the DC municipal code pertaining to shared fleet devices:
Looking back at the first half of 2023, Spin is proud to share that people rode our e-scooters a total of 670, 614 miles, with a remarkable 61,005 miles coming from low-income riders.This means 9.1% of all Spin trips in the District (by mileage) were taken by registered low-income residents in our Spin Access program. All of these trips were completely free for enrolled riders, an example of our commitment to building an inclusive mobility service that is accessible to all.
As a long-term partner with DDOT, Spin has always prioritized creating a mobility service that is equitable on several different levels:
We aim to serve an inclusive group of riders from all backgrounds;
We price our service affordably for low-income residents, who are eligible for five (5) free fifty-minute (50) trips per day if they earn an income within 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL); and
We pay our local team a living wage and prioritize diversity in our hiring practices to ensure our operations team truly reflects the communities we serve.
So why does this case study in equity policy matter?
From a financial perspective, the District recently awarded Spin a 90% fee waiver of the first six months of applicable permit fees consistent with the sliding scale chart shown above. This is notable because the District is one of the only local jurisdictions in the world that financially rewards or incentivizes micromobility companies for delivering equitable outcomes that directly benefit residents. And the results speak for themselves: We significantly increased our enrollment of low-income residents and made sure our e-scooters and e-bikes were freely available to use.
At the moment most cities across the United States only request that micromobility companies offer a discounted trip price for low-income individuals, where enrollment and uptake can vary widely depending on a company’s outreach and enrollment processes. This approach fails to offer companies a carrot or compelling financial reason for making equitable pricing a priority. It also lacks an emphasis on results, where what really matters is the number of discounted trips taken. These types of outcomes show whether a mobility service is truly available to all communities.
Looking ahead, we encourage our city partners to take note of the importance of leveraging incentives to drive public policy priorities – from equity and affordability to sustainability – in the design of their shared mobility programs. The District’s creative use of such incentives is a proven example of equity policy that actually works and achieves its stated goals.
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