Why E-Scooter Demand In Chicago Is Heating Up Even As Pilot Winds Down
Policy | October 16, 2019 | Share
Back in March, three months before electric scooters first rolled out in Chicago, early polling showed that 54% of city residents approved of the idea of dockfree micromobility services, while 34% disapproved and 11% were undecided.
Six months later, those numbers would make a dramatic shift to 61%, 23% and 15%, respectively.
So what happened? How did e-scooter sharing manage to net a quick 18-point increase in public support in one of the nation's largest cities?* To answer this question, it’s important to put Chicago’s mobility demand in the proper context.
* Support for Lime ranked highest among Latino (74%) and African American (63%) populations.
Last month, a new INRIX report showed that, although 48% of all trips in the most congested American cities are less than three miles long, the percentage of such trips taken in Chicago is closer to 51%. That distance just so happens to be the sweet spot for micromobility services, and it means that the Windy City could potentially see above average decreases in traffic congestion with the help of electric scooters.
Couple that with Chicago's “transit deserts” -- west and south side neighborhoods that have limited access to public transit and bikeshare -- and the appeal of micromobility services begins to take shape. In fact, a key stipulation of the city's scooter pilot program mandated that 50% of each operator’s fleet be stationed in priority zones encompassing these underserved neighborhoods.
And the result? According to a DePaul University research report in August:
“A notable aspect of the system’s performance is the relatively steady proportion of e-scooters in areas with high or very high levels of economic hardship. This distribution is much more balanced across neighborhood types than is typically achieved by dock-based bike-sharing systems.”
Such equitable scooter deployment resulted not only in greater mobility access for underserved communities, but in high ridership and modeshift percentages overall. According to Lime data and extensive rider surveys, Chicago’s four-month, geographically limited pilot yielded:
- - Well over 100,000 rides on Lime electric scooters
- - 31% of riders opting to use an electric scooter instead of a personal vehicle or rideshare during their last trip
- - 47 Lime First Ride safety events
- - Over 33% of all scooter rides taking place in priority zones
“The demand for scooters during Chicago's pilot has been very high, showcasing the potential of micromobility to decongest our streets and bring transportation access to areas of the City that have historically been underserved,” said Nico Probst, Lime’s Director of Government Relations. “The mayor and city council should immediately begin to establish a permanent program. Without scooters, too many residents will lose an equitable, affordable and reliable way to get around the city.”
Results from Chicago’s e-scooter pilot come less than a week after an in-depth sustainability report in Paris showed, among other things, a 1+ year lifespan on Lime Gen 3 electric scooters. The report was undertaken by Lime and leading transportation planning firm Sam Schwartz Engineering.
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