Policy

Micromobility Trends: Scooters as an Essential Service

By Josh Johnson, Public Policy Manager

A majority of the country is still currently under some form of lockdown as we attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. All transportation services have been impacted by the loss of all non-essential trips, such as those by commuters, tourists, and students. Public transit agencies, municipal bike share systems, and micromobility companies are seeing significant drops in ridership.

Even still, Spin is in a unique position to be an essential transportation option during these rapidly changing circumstances. While trains and buses run on fixed routes, micromobility companies like Spin have nimble operations, and are able to adjust deployments to places where people need service.

That’s why during this crisis, we felt it was critical to continue providing scooter service to communities where our city partners agreed that our service was essential or were supportive of continued operations.

Over the past month, it’s clear from our ridership data that scooters are making an impact and remain an essential part of communities’ transportation networks. Here are a few trends we’ve seen comparing our trip data from pre shelter-in-place to post shelter-in-place:

  • People are riding for longer distances in all of the cities where we continue to operate. We have seen a median increase by 26 percent, with riders in some cities increasing their median ride distance (Detroit) by 60 percent. This suggests that scooters are being used for more than just first-and-last-mile transportation needs. And for some, scooters may be their main mode of transportation: 11 percent of users have increased their trip count per day since shelter-in-place went into effect in these cities.*
  • Micromobility, including scooters, is a key service for supporting critical healthcare workers. Across all cities, there’s been an increase in trips to pharmacies and hospitals, which could indicate the highest utilization of e-scooters is among healthcare workers. This is likely in part due to Spin’s Everyday Heroes program which offers free rides and helmets for healthcare workers. Spin surveyed participants in the Everyday Heroes program and found 74 percent didn’t have a car and 83 percent are using Spin scooters right now to commute to and from work.** Additionally, 11 percent used the scooters to travel between hospital campuses.**
  • A recent blogpost by Populus, which included Spin ridership data in Baltimore, shows that while ridership is down overall, the percentage of people riding in the City’s established Equity Zones has risen significantly. Although the City temporarily relaxed its equity requirements, Spin continues to deploy in a majority of the 20 equity zones.
  • Spin’s ridership in San Francisco complemented public transportation, providing first-and-last-mile connectivity for commuters, before the city’s shelter-in-place order. However, after the shelter-in-place, trips to and from public transit have decreased and we’ve instead seen increases in trips to pharmacies and restaurants.

The above maps show a change in riders’ travel patterns in San Francisco. Prior to shelter-in-place, riders were using scooters to commute to Market Street and other heavy transit locations and for tourism. After shelter-in-place, there’s been a shift in purpose of these trips to essential services.

While ridership is down overall, it is abundantly clear that people are relying on micromobility for essential transportation needs. Through these uncertain times, we will continue to analyze our data to better understand and respond to changing transportation needs. We will also continue to work with cities and transit agencies to understand their priorities, and partner with them to continue to provide the essential transportation service that people need to get through this crisis.

Josh Johnson serves as Public Policy Manager for Spin, with a primary focus on overseeing Spin’s data-sharing practices. In this role, Josh is positioning Spin to lead the industry in collaborating and innovating with governments and privacy stakeholders to deliver the data that public agencies need, while safeguarding privacy and data security. Josh also serves as co-chair on the Open Mobility Foundation’s Privacy, Security, and Transparency Committee. Prior to joining Spin, Josh was the Advanced Mobility Manager for the Department of Public Works in the City of Minneapolis, where he led the establishment of public sector best practices in mobility data policy and management.

* Spin analyzed trip data in 8 cities to understand usage before shelter-in-place orders and after shelter-in-place orders.

**Spin conducted a survey of current Everyday Heroes participants in mid-April. Thirteen percent of Everyday Heroes participants at the time responded.

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