Hyperlink e-scooters on the transfer (photograph: @LINK_Scooters)
New York Metropolis is about to solicit bids for a brand new electrical scooter sharing program that would finally remodel town’s micro-mobility panorama. One agency that plans to hunt a metropolis contract believes it has the monitor file to show itself and create a community of e-scooters that will likely be sustainable and accessible to communities of coloration which were underserved by town’s mass transit system.
For years, transit advocates clamored for the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters, which was lastly accredited by each the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo on this yr’s state funds in April. In June, the New York Metropolis Council handed laws establishing native laws in addition to mandating an e-scooter sharing pilot program for at the least one yr and two years at most. Underneath the laws, the Division of Transportation is required to subject a Request for Proposals (RFP) on October 15, with the intention of launching this system by March 1, 2021.
The e-scooter program is supposed to supply a brand new choice for getting round, particularly in environmentally-friendly style, and to fill the gaps in transit alternate options, notably in neighborhoods that at present aren’t served by Citi Bike’s bicycle-share system.
“Now greater than ever New York Metropolis wants transportation choices, particularly micro mobility which is reasonably priced, accessible, environmentally pleasant and permits secure distancing to stop the unfold of COVID-19,” mentioned Metropolis Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat who sponsored the laws, in a press release. Although Cabrera acknowledged that town faces funds constraints that Division of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has raised issues about, he urged the administration to create a program that “is as broad as potential to check and distinction ends in totally different communities and develop greatest practices, notably round storage of scooters.”
A DOT spokesperson acknowledged a request for remark from Gotham Gazette however didn’t present one.
Transit advocates are wanting to see this system rise up and working, notably because the pandemic has modified how New Yorkers reside and commute throughout town. Subway and bus ridership have but to recuperate again to pre-pandemic ranges whereas bike ridership has boomed. This system can be another excuse for town to reimagine its streetscapes, they are saying, with a watch to creating extra room for micro-mobility and lowering New Yorkers’ reliance on vehicles.
Though late to the sport of micro-mobility, New York Metropolis has the benefit of being a sexy marketplace for firms due to its density and connectivity with mass transit, particularly as e-scooter utilization has elevated dramatically over the previous few years – in line with a report from the Nationwide Affiliation of Metropolis Transportation Officers, there have been 38.5 million journeys on shared e-scooters in 2018 throughout the nation, out of 84 million shared micro-mobility journeys.
Paul Steely White, a longtime transit advocate, is now the director of growth and public affairs at Superpedestrian, a Boston-based agency that launched its personal e-scooter service, Hyperlink. The agency, a “second mover” within the micro-mobility market, has gained contracts in cities that embody Seattle, Salt Lake Metropolis, and Rome, and now has its eyes set on New York, the place there’s more likely to be intense competitors to win town contract for a pilot e-scooter program.
In a cellphone interview, White mentioned that his agency could also be an “underdog” but it surely has an edge over a few of its extra distinguished rivals like Fowl, Lime, Lyft, and Spin, that are all anticipated to use with town. Hyperlink’s chief promoting level, White mentioned, is its personal e-scooter constructed from scratch that doesn’t endure from points that make different e-scooters unsafe and unsustainable. He mentioned the scooter’s “secret sauce” is its patented “Automobile Intelligence System,” which displays questions of safety, with the battery or electrical parts as an illustration, and might repair them routinely.
“In order that implies that it is a safer automobile. But it surely additionally means it is cheaper to function the fleets,” he mentioned. “The largest price that Fowl and Lime and actually any shared mobility operator incurs is in upkeep and spare elements and depreciation.” White beforehand labored for Fowl. Decrease working prices additionally imply that Hyperlink can supply companies in areas that different companies could keep away from due to a scarcity of profitability.
Hyperlink’s scooters even have a geofencing system, which determines the parameters of the place the autos will be operated, that’s native to the scooter relatively than based mostly on smartphone apps which have to speak via the cloud. That permits Hyperlink scooters to extra shortly forestall folks from touring into restricted zones corresponding to roads or sidewalks, he mentioned, and permits for self-enforcement that can assist alleviate the necessity for town crackdown on errant scooter riders. The geofencing can kick in in lower than a second, in comparison with nearly 30 seconds for different scooter firms, in line with a Hyperlink presentation supplied to Gotham Gazette.
That final level would probably work in Hyperlink’s favor. In a listening to earlier than the Metropolis Council final month, Trottenberg warned that funds cuts to her division meant it was short-staffed and should not be capable of monitor the rollout of the e-scooter program. “I don’t actually have the personnel to do all these packages in addition to I wish to,” Trottenberg mentioned, in line with a New York Daily News report.
White famous that Hyperlink additionally doesn’t must depend on shortly capturing market share however as a substitute is targeted on offering reliable companies. Early adopters like Fowl and Lime, he mentioned, “had been trying to the Uber and Lyft playbook of market share because the purpose. However what they missed was that which may work for a pure tech firm or software program firm, however these are transportation firms working within the public realm. A lot extra essential than market share is complying with the laws and metropolis guidelines.”
There are more likely to be challenges for town moreover staffing. Although the DOT has put in greater than 400 miles of motorcycle lanes beneath de Blasio, town’s bike infrastructure stays woefully insufficient to deal with a crush of latest bicycle and scooter riders. E-scooter gross sales have already shot via the roof, according to a Streetsblog report.
“There’s by no means been a time when New Yorkers have been in search of new methods to get round just like the time we’re in proper now,” mentioned Joe Cutrufo, communications director at Transportation Alternate options, an advocacy group the place White served as government director for practically 15 years.
Cutrufo criticized town for not prioritizing scooters and bicycles as modes of transit throughout the pandemic, notably as folks proceed to be cautious of taking the subway. “This could have been a precedence for the DOT and admittedly, it is a disgrace that it isn’t,” he mentioned, noting that final yr additionally noticed probably the most bicycle owner fatalities in 20 years. “The pandemic hit. The mayor mentioned stroll or bike to work when you can. Properly, what did he do to try to make it safer for folks to have the ability to do this? Not a lot.”
He mentioned town must capitalize each on the rising demand for e-scooters in addition to the altering use of curbside actual property triggered by out of doors eating. However he appeared skeptical of the mayor’s dedication to it. “The reality of the matter is that if now we have the infrastructure to separate cyclists and scooter riders from motor autos, we’re setting all these packages up for fulfillment,” mentioned Cutrufo. “I do not know if the mayor sees issues that method. He seems on the danger as one thing that he has no management over.”