E-scooters are a shared mobility service that has emerged in recent years, initially without government permits or regulation. In response to the disruption, the city of Portland, Oregon created the E-Scooter Pilot Program under the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to work with the startups managing scooter systems to ensure that its development could remain in line with Portland's overall vision and policy values. The pilot was designed to assess whether e-scooters served as a viable way of meeting the city's transportation needs, and sought to gauge its effectiveness at reducing traffic congestion, avoiding injuries from scooter use, expanding transportation access for underserved communities, and reducing air pollution. To measure these goals, PBOT instituted data-sharing requirements with the companies operating within the city, requiring them to provide data on real-time availability, trip origins and destinations, and safety information. This information was supplemented with a rider survey, a citywide poll, focus groups, an online complaint form used to track violations, and community and stakeholder input. The pilot lasted 120 days and involved more than 700,000 e-scooter trips.
The user survey reported the following:
- E-scooters replaced personal car and ride-hailing trips. In 34 percent of cases, riders reported that their most recent scooter trip would have used either a personal car (19 percent in total) or a ride-hailing service (15 percent in total) were it not for the e-scooter service. Auto replacement numbers were even higher among tourists, with 34 percent of visitors using scooters to replace a ride-sharing trip and 14 percent using them to replace a personal vehicle trip. Using the number of scooter miles traveled during the pilot, PBOT estimates that e-scooter usage replaced approximately 300,000 vehicle miles. This corresponds to a similar emissions reduction as removing 27 average passenger vehicles from the road for a full year.
However, e-scooters also replaced low-emissions trips. Over 40 percent of respondents said their scooter ride replaced a trip that would have otherwise just involved walking, and five percent said they would have biked instead.
- E-scooters may have a modest effect on vehicle ownership. While 6 percent of users reported getting rid of a car because of their access to e-scooters, 16 percent of users reported having considered doing so. It is possible that this impact would increase if the scooter program were extended to be a long-term transportation solution.
- E-scooters are primarily used for transportation. Only 29 percent of users reported most frequently using e-scooters for recreation or exercise.
The pilot did not collect data on the amount of vehicle traffic incurred by scooter deployment and retrieval. Thus, the overall impact to the transportation system, and the total impact of emissions from the pilot's operations, are not fully known.