Shared dockless micromobility use, specifically dockless bike sharing and dockless electric scooter (e-scooter) use has grown tremendously in the past decade and today many cities around the world have dockless micromobility systems deployed on their streets.
However, the growth of these systems has caused a variety of issues related to equity and safety. Dockless vehicles may block sidewalks if improperly parked, are often not distributed evenly across cities, and may unintentionally exclude certain travelers by requiring the use of a cell phone for service.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) launched a dockless micromobility pilot program in 2019. LADOT’s objective for this program was to allow dockless micromobility programs to operate across the Los Angeles, while ensuring that these services operated in a safe and equitable manner. To do this, LADOT implemented a variety of safety and equity provisions. Some of these provisions included:
- Requiring operators to share travel data in LADOTs preferred data format.
- Implementing drop zones (i.e. parking spaces) for vehicles.
- Requiring operators to provide in-app training for users on safety and correct parking.
- Incentivizing operators to deploy vehicles in designated Disadvantaged Communities (DACs).
Throughout the pilot, LADOT collected data about the effectiveness of the pilot program, surveyed users, and conducted continuous data analysis to understand how well the pilot program worked. After running the pilot program for a year, LADOT concluded:
- Dockless micromobility are a popular travel options with travelers taking over 10 million trips during the pilot period. LADOT estimated dockless mobility options reduced CO2 emissions by 1,802 metric tons over the course of the pilot.
- Incentivizing operators to deploy vehicles in DACs was not an effective equity strategy. LADOT’s initial equity framework did not account for other potentially underserved individuals, like older adults and travelers with disabilities.
To correct some of the shortcomings from its initial dockless micromobility pilot program, LADOT reworked its pilot program for its second year. Some of the updated practices LADOT used for its second year included:
- LADOT offered more robust incentives to operators for deploying vehicles in specifics zones.
- Developing and using a transportation specific framework to designate underserved communities. As noted, LADOT’s attempt to incentivize micromobility providers to deploy vehicles in DACs did not improve equity. As a unit of analysis, DACs were geographically too large and did not account for the transportation specific needs of neighborhoods. Thus, LADOT developed its own transportation specific framework for designating underserved areas. These new areas were called Mobility Disadvantage Zones (MDZs) and Mobility Equity Zones (MEZs).
- LADOT expanded its equity lens to include older adults, travelers with disabilities, and lower-income travelers in its second year. Thus, LADOT developed several new policies to address equity concerns for these groups such as establishing consistent low income subscription rates.
- LADOT expanded its community outreach and transparency efforts to better engage the community around micromobility issues.