A City Guide to New Micro Mobilities

3 City Scenarios to Measure Impact, Ensure Equity, and Prepare for the Future

Discarded dockless bikes on the edges of the National Mall, captured by Michael Neubert (April 2018).

Context

We at Stae have seen how new shared mobility services are happening to cities, rather than with them. Dockless bike and scooter companies have been showing up on city streets across the country, forcing cities to reactively adapt to how streets and sidewalks are being used.

We built Stae for exactly these kinds of data management frictions. And we think the approach cities take with dockless vendors now can ensure a right to transit data on public terms and shape how future mobility programs can become collaboratively integrated into the urban fabric– not forced upon them.

We always start by talking to people. To better understand the role of real-time data in this emerging mobility space, we interviewed people from 10 U.S. cities directly overseeing new dockless shared vehicle programs. Here, we share our learnings in hopes of improving how tech can be a better partner to cities and how cities can have a stronger voice in shaping their future.

*Source: National Association of City Transportation Officials, 2018.

Micro Mobility Landscape

Synthesized desk research and city interviews
To get a good glimpse into the issues cities are facing with new micro mobilities, we looked wide and looked deep. We started by creating an open, editable compendium of where and how dockless vendors were active and we invited anyone to access and add information.

We led in-depth interviews with 1–2 people from each city to understand how new mobility programs impacted both their daily work flows and long-term focus.

The roles of city staffers we interviewed in cities across the U.S.

For the people whose job it is to ensure everyday accessibility, integration, safety, and equity on our streets, their need states fall across a spectrum of intensities and data complexities.

City staffers managing new micro mobility programs have a range of data needs that impact their near and far-term abilities to evaluate programs and set guidelines for future expansion.

City Scenario #1: Digitizing the Details

City program managers need data to set up and monitor newly-permitted dockless shared vehicle programs. Without a tool to manage real-time data sharing and digital regulation, cities cannot easily monitor complaints and ensure vendor compliance with permit regulations.

EVERYDAY REALITY

  • Multiple emails and phone calls to vendors to issue and follow up with complaints.
  • Multiple platforms or reports to “spot check” vendor compliance with things like service boundaries, parking, and equitable vehicle distribution requirements.
  • Vendors providing incomplete, late, static data files rather than real-time feeds.

FUTURE POTENTIAL
How might real-time data sharing enable easier, everyday program operations?

  • Digitize program requirements such as service boundaries, fleet size monitoring, distribution zones, parking restrictions, and hours of operation.
  • Enable digital permitting and fee payment.
  • Automate alerts for non-compliance shared with the city and vendors.
  • Dockless complaint dashboard.

City Scenario #2: Ensuring Outcomes

Without the ability to view vehicle location density and trip across city zones, city managers struggle with evaluating the availability, distribution, and use of vehicles by geographic zones and demographics such as race and income.

EVERYDAY REALITY

  • Missing full data picture to evaluate vendors and hold them accountable against equity goals.
  • Seeking real-time data to set rebalancing frequency, distribution requirements, and negotiate permits for fleet size and slow growth goals.
  • Inability to compare data across different vendors and city data types, e.g. census tracks.
  • Evaluating program performance is done internally or with just one partner.

FUTURE POTENTIAL
How might cities ensure ridership gains and equitable access across geographies, incomes, and abilities?

  • Customizable distribution and rebalancing dashboard showing vehicle counts and percentages per zone, and number of regular rebalances per vendor.
  • Automated alerts for rebalancing violations.
  • Time stamping and alerting for vendors.
  • Shared data standards to facilitate research partnerships with universities.

City Scenario #3: Informing the Future

People who plan mobility and streets, from urban planners to traffic engineers, want to make data-driven infrastructure and design decisions. They seek data to understand current vehicle hotspots, analyze dockless vehicle use in relationship to other modes of transit, and adjust street regulations such as speed limits, widths and traffic calming measures.

EVERYDAY REALITY

  • Anecdotes or mode-biased reports (e.g. car-centric traffic counts) rather than current data inform grant applications and infrastructure planning.
  • Planners lack insights into frequent routes, origin/ destination hotspots, integration with other transit modes to take a demand-based approach to planning.

FUTURE POTENTIAL 
How might city planners rethink streets and prioritize new infrastructure to help residents get around safely and efficiently from wherever to wherever in the city?

  • Real-time data displaying key insights per intersection and roadway (e.g. queryable by trip or crash metrics).
  • Improved mapping functionality for common transit mapping needs, including integration with tools like ESRI and ArcGIS.
  • Simple, yet sophisticated heatmaps that show frequent transit routes, trip origins, and interactions with other transit modes.

Interested in partnering with us to co-create solutions for managing dockless data? Reach out here: we+dockless@stae.co