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How We Plan to Help Make Pittsburgh An Inclusive 15-Minute City

A pull quote that reads, "I enjoy being able to get where I need to go on my own terms.” - Spin Access user.

The need for reliable and affordable transportation

Our 15-minute city vision is to make it easy for anyone to access all the elements of their life -- work, home, leisure, and family or friends -- by traveling 15 minutes or less to each destination, through a combination of reliable public transport and shared public or private mobility.

Access to reliable and affordable transportation for all is fundamental to this 15-minute city vision, and to improving economic mobility and quality of life; it can mean the difference between being able to get to work, to school, to health care services and healthy food, or not.

In a recent survey of participants in our low-income program, Spin Access, we found that their use of e-scooters represented a diverse range of trip purposes which are central to the 15-minute city vision, and that it helped to deliver on their need for reliable and affordable transportation, as illustrated in the following graphs.

This need for reliable and affordable transportation is magnified in a city like Pittsburgh, where 65 percent of low income residents lack access to a vehicle, city residents without a car can only access about 40 percent of the region’s jobs within a 90-minute commute, and less than half of all Pittsburghers are within an easy walk (1/4 mile) of frequent transit.

How we will help to deliver the 15-minute city vision in Pittsburgh

To break down these transportation barriers and help to deliver the 15-minute city vision in Pittsburgh, we launched Move PGH, a groundbreaking public-private partnership that will give residents access to transit and shared modes including scooters, bikes, mopeds, cars, and carpool options, all done seamlessly through the Transit app and a network of mobility hubs throughout the city.

To better understand how to make Move PGH and our 15-minute city vision more inclusive, our commitment also includes a Guaranteed Basic Mobility (GBM) pilot, where 50 low-income resident* will have access to the Move PGH suite of transportation options, subsidized by a grant from the RK Mellon Foundation. We have committed $50,000 to support the pilot.

Early results support this vision

With our launch of scooters in July, we’ve seen early ridership which demonstrates the opportunity that access to transportation options through this Guaranteed Basic Mobility pilot may hold for participants, particularly in low-income and underserved neighborhoods. 

Examples of this are visualized in the heatmaps below, courtesy of Populus, the first showing use of scooters in the Manchester/Allegheny West/Central Northside neighborhoods, which according to U.S. Census data, has a median household income of $46k and poverty rate of 18 percent. 

The second heatmap shows scooter use in the East Liberty/Friendship/Garfield neighborhoods, which have a poverty rate of nearly 19 percent and a median household income of about $45k.

These initial ridership patterns suggest that scooters can, in fact, help connect people who are in need of reliable and affordable transportation options. If these early ridership trends are any indication, it’s clear that new transportation options, like those of Move PGH, are being welcomed—and used by—residents in otherwise underserved communities, and we are eager to see this positive trend continue throughout the coming year.

Expanding this vision beyond Pittsburgh

The research and learnings that will come out of Pittsburgh will help us better understand how Spin, and the micromobility industry as a whole, can work with policy makers to improve equitable access to new mobility options. Move PGH and the Guaranteed Basic Mobility pilot are a big step forward in our vision to help deliver a world full of inclusive 15-minute cities, and represent what we hope is a tipping point to open many more opportunities for similar partnerships and pilots in other cities.

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the number of participants in the program. It has been updated.

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