At least one micromobility company sees opportunity in recent statistics that show that around half of all car trips in the Boston region are under 3 miles.
Santa Monica, California-based Bird, along with rival Lime, are piloting electric battery-powered scooters in Brookline. The test, which started in April, is unique for Massachusetts as e-scooters are illegal in the state due largely to decades-old laws originally targeted at mopeds.
Attempts in the past couple of years to introduce the vehicles in places such as Cambridge and Somerville failed. These and other cities—most notably Boston—have taken baby steps toward approving regulations that would allow e-scooters, and there is some movement to legalize them at the state level. But, for now, the Brookline pilot is the only place in the commonwealth where rentable e-scooter shares can be legally had.
The recent stats about just how many Boston-area car rides are for such short distances might change that, though, a Bird executive said.
INRIX, a mobility analytics and car connectivity firm well known for its traffic analyses, found that 49 percent of all automobile trips in the Boston area are less than 3 miles and 21 percent are under 1 mile. That’s slightly more than than the 48 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in other major U.S. metros combined.
“Where we see short car trips, we see enormous opportunity,” Melinda Hanson, head of sustainability at Bird, said in an email. “E-scooters are an environmentally friendly option that is proven to replace short car trips, and alleviate the traffic congestion those trips create.
“What’s more, many of these trips would be faster and more convenient on an e-scooter. The people of Boston deserve to have transportation options for short trips beyond taking a car—we just need the state to make that possible by legalizing e-scooters.”
That was kind of the conclusion of the INRIX report, which saw e-scooters and other micromobility such as bike-shares and biking in general as ways to alleviate traffic congestion in metro areas. And the Boston area certainly has some traffic congestion—perhaps the worst in the nation.
The Brookline e-scooter pilot is scheduled to end in mid-November, at which time stats on usage and ridership during the entire test run should be available. (Lime, which also operates e-bikes in the Boston region, did not return requests for comment on the INRIX report.)
Meanwhile, Bluebikes, the region’s largest bike-share, continues to expand and recently blew past its 10 millionth trip—suggesting there really is substantial demand for more ways to get around Boston and its environs without a car.
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