What micro-mobility services really need

This article is drawn from the Transport Weekly newsletter from GreenBiz, running Tuesdays.

Whatever you want to call the rising use of shared bikes, scooters and vehicles — micro-mobility, Mobility-as-a-Service, shared active transportation — the trend isn't just about cool new gadgets, making investors incredibly wealthy or ticking off slow-moving cities. No, these new mobility services could help tackle climate change as it relates to transportation.

And such potential car-driving-curbing tools actually could be really crucial. On Monday, scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a sobering report that finds that only a dozen years or so are left to keep the world at a max warming point of 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

If you dig into the transportation section of the report, it's pretty disturbing. It noted "over the past half-century transportation has witnessed faster emissions growth than any other." Now the world needs "fuel switching" (basically EVs and biofuels), but it also desperately needs a "reduction or shifting of transportation." Technology-based solutions such as electric cars are commonly figured into climate change policy and programs, stated the report, but reducing vehicle driving in general is not always considered.

The emergence of micro-mobility solutions is an interesting mix of a technology solution and a potential driving reduction tool. Lime Chief Product Officer Scott Kubly said on Twitter on Sunday night in reference to the report: "Why I joined @limebike and why we push so hard!"

Scooter sharing is still a very new sector, so it's not easy to say exactly how scooters are reducing personal vehicle driving. More studies need to be done. Bike sharing is also a mixed bag when it comes to how much it reduces driving. Ride hailing also can lead to more vehicle miles traveled in some cities. 

Cities and mobility providers need to collect, share and use data from these services to design systems that consistently lead to the replacement of personal vehicle driving. It's a geeky but key aspect of making sure that the rise of micro-mobility indeed can be used as a way to fight climate change.

I think that it's such an important aspect of the future of transportation, that I've put together a discussion at our upcoming VERGE 18 conference on it (next week!). Lime's Kubly will join Oakland Director of Transportation Ryan Russo; Uber's head of public policy and data engagement, Emily Strand; Regina Clewlow, founder of CEO of data startup Populus; and UC Davis' Austin Brown to discuss best practices for using and sharing transportation data.

We've got a bunch of other really cool mobility discussions going on at VERGE including:

  • An autonomous vehicle 101 tutorial with self-driving car expert Annie Lien; May Mobility's COO Alisyn Malek; Lyft's director of self-driving platform, Jody Kelman; legislative advisor Tina Andolina; and more.
  • A panel on innovation and the last mile with Scoot President Justin Dawe; transportation entrepreneur and investor Gabe Klein; AC Transit CIO Ahsan Baig; Tara Pham, CEO and co-founder of Numina; and Energy Impact Partner's Cassie Bowe.
  • A breakout session on Designing Cities For Autonomous & On-Demand, with Zipcar and Veniam co-founder Robin Chase, WSP's Sahar Shirazi (former senior planning advisor to the California governor's office), SFMTA's Katie Angotti and Perkins+Will's Gerry Tierney. 

If you can't make it to the talks at VERGE, you can always just come by and check out the clean energy microgrid, startup showcase, and do some EV test drives with a free VERGE Expo pass (use code V18EXPO). Or just tune into the livestream with a free VERGE Virtual pass.