Riders of bikes, scooters and other personal mobility devices should receive government funding and incentives as mass transit and car commuters do
Using the State of NSW in Australia as an example, those commuting by car or public transport receive government support of between $813 and $1,829 each per year. Total Government funding for these modes of transport is $11.483 billion per year.
Source:Audit Office of NSW, Transport 2018 released 28 November 2018 See further data at the end of this article.
Few people are aware of the level and type of funding supporting mass transit and road users. In NSW, fare-box recovery (the percentage of public transport cost recovered by fares) is under 25%. The shortfall of 75% is provided by the State Government. Government funding includes direct commuter incentives like “transfer benefits” where commuters get a discount for switching between different modes of public transport. In NSW this is $2 for switches within 60 minutes.
On top of this, the government provides free parking to driver-only vehicles at transit hubs, and subsidies to emerging on-demand shuttle services, adding an estimated 2,2500 per year in benefit to each regular user!
The Rationale for Government Incentives
Micro-mobility commuters are investing in a personal asset or shared service to get to and from their work. Ultimately they save the government from additional infrastructure and operational costs. Commuters should be rewarded for this behaviour and others encouraged to adopt these modes of transport.
46% of Australian capital city commuters live within 10km of work, 26% within 5km. Bikes and scooters are perfect for shorter journeys or connecting the first/last mile to bus, train, ferry and light rail stops. Results from share scooter programs around the world are showing significant substitution from driver-only cars and the flow on benefits to traffic and the environment.
Commuter choice of travel mode is a deeply embedded behaviour — especially driver-only vehicles. To change habits requires psychology — in this case, some meaningful incentives.
Even a small shift of 5% of driver-only vehicles to micro-mobility will remove over 300,000 cars from Australia’s daily commuter traffic and reduce carbon emissions by around 450 million tons per year.
Providing commuter incentives of a similar level to other modes of transport has the potential to drive a significant shift in mode choice. For Greater Sydney, if 5% of private car commuters switch to micro-mobility it would only cost the State $62 million, at $1,000 per commuter. This represents just 0.5% of the State’s total funding provided to other modes of transport. The savings in tons of CO2 could potentially fund this through carbon trading programs.
Active and micro-mobility commuters represent just 5% of all commuters for Greater Sydney and Australia. Incentives are needed to drive change in commuter transport choices from this very low base.
Incentives to Consider
Financial and other incentives can be provided at a Federal, State and Local level by government and private enterprises. Here are some thought starters:
Federal Government Incentives
- Allow companies to provide employees, on a funded or salary deduction basis, a fringe-benefits tax-free micro-mobility vehicle for commuting. Eligible vehicles would need to comply with the Federal Government’s Personal Mobility Device specifications and/or Australian Design Rules for bikes and other mobility devices.
Provide tax deductibility to companies providing micro-mobility devices and facilities to their employees. A number of European countries already do this including up to 120% tax deductibility.
- Provide tax deductibility at a personal level for purchases of complying commuter mobility devices.
- The Australian Bicycle Network has recently proposed the Federal Government pay bicycle commuters $5/day for riding to work. Full details and their rationale is at the linked press release.
State Government Incentives
- Mass Transit benefits are an obvious incentive — Transport for NSW already gives Opal card holders various benefits — including a “transfer benefit” of $2 for switching from one mode of NSW transit to another — a discount off the next “hop”.
The $2 transfer benefit should be provided to micro-mobility users who use their own or a share device to ride to a transit hub/stop.
- A similar benefit could be provided to users who use their own device or a shared device for their entire commute.
- Transit incentives/benefits could also be provided for weekend use for users who make a qualifying number of micro-mobility commutes each week, e.g. free weekend mass transit use.
Local Government Incentives
- Better shared and protected pathways to transit hubs and stops are the best incentives local government can provide.
Use the funding provided by scooter share fees to invest in local infrastructure — everyone benefits.
- Provide better facilities for micro-mobility users — especially near major transit hubs and local destinations — better, safer bike/scooter parking solutions in the best positions.
- Free/discounted rates on local community transport connecting micro-mobility users to destinations.
Private Enterprise Incentives
Commuters are an attractive audience for many companies — transport and other categories. A range of incentives could be provided:
- In cooperation with the Government, extend transfer benefits to include privately operated transport.
- Ride-hailing links — especially when the weather makes it hard to use micro-mobility, e.g. Uber introduces offers for micro-mobility users when weather intervenes.
- Better micro-mobility facilities for safe parking and storage at convenience stores and commuter relevant retailers.
The data collected enables a range of loyalty program type rewards should a group of companies wish to support micro-mobility — ideally at least one global card scheme as the anchor, who will benefit from the massive mobility payments market of $1 trillion+ per year.
Measurement & Open Data
Delivering the sorts of benefits promoted by this article requires measurement and access to data. It needs to be able to authenticate rider entitlements:
- Are they riding a compliant approved bike or personal mobility device, or using an approved sharing service?
- Are they riding their device for the qualifying purpose — commuting to and from work?
- Are they entitled to any “transfer” or other mass transit benefits, e.g. have they transferred within approved time and location limits?
Above and beyond the rider benefits, the anonymised data available to smart cities, communities, companies and commuters can deliver enormous insights and benefits for transport planners and operators. Most cities are lucky to have access to 30% of commuter journey data. A well-structured micro-mobility program can enable data from every commuter bike and micro-mobility device in a city to be shared anonymously.
Localift is Building a Global Platform for Smart Micro-Mobility
We have identified and designed solutions for the issues and opportunities discussed in this article.
- Capturing user data and ensuring devices are eligible
- Device journey tracking to authenticate eligibility
- API gateways to existing micro-mobility applications to enable existing global apps to be the users’ interface to micro-mobility incentives and benefits, e.g. existing cycling apps
- Open data standards compatible with existing smart city open data programs
Help Us Help You!
Localift is looking for cities, transport operators and other organisations focussed on future mobility and MaaS who would like to be part of our platform development for micro-mobility.
Please reach out through LinkedIn or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Little More Background Data
For mobility geeks, here’s more of the summary data from the Transport 2018 report for the State of NSW in Australia…