Newswise – electric scooters or “e-scooters” are conquering cities around the world and are very popular with tourists. Although the use of e-scooters declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, their popularity could recover quickly, especially if travelers on some shorter trips begin to replace transit with scooters. Shared e-scooters, in particular, are a rapidly evolving mode of transport, but pose a number of regulatory challenges, from fair distribution to parking infrastructure to pedestrian safety.
Understanding the e-scooter sharing travel requirement patterns and demographics most likely to use this alternative mode of transportation is expected to be a moving target and challenge for city, regional and transportation planners for several years. Several other researchers have examined spatial patterns of demand for e-scooters but have found inconclusive or contradicting results and examined large zones rather than specific street segments.
This deficiency prompted a researcher from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University and a staff member at the University of Florida to find out what affects the spatial patterns of e-scooter use. Her solution? You have created the first segment-level model that can more accurately capture created environment variables. They also identify and consider likely destinations for scooter users such as transit stops, business parks, and parks.
For the study, which was published in the journal Transportation Research Part A, researchers analyzed Washington, DC due to the availability of wide open data, including data on the built environment, and the maturity of the shared mobility market. Washington DC has been a leader in micromobility since it launched its bikeshare program in 2008. The city started allowing dockless bikeshare in 2017, and shortly afterwards it launched an electric scooter pilot in 2018.
The results of the study provide a clear picture of travel generation and sources of travel attraction for shared e-scooter trips in Washington DC. It turns out that both the built environment and demographic factors matter. Tourism seems to be a major driver in scooter use. Tourist attractions, hotels and subway stations suggest higher goals, which has a greater impact on Saturdays than on weekdays. The areas with predicted high scooter traffic are almost all downtown, near the mall, the White House, and Congress. Hotels, tram stops, and circulator stops roughly double the number of expected scooter destinations, with the number of bus stops having a smaller effect.
The researchers also discovered that after controlling other types of targets, stops of all kinds – subway stations, bus stops, circulator stops, and tram stops – predict the destinations of scooters. For the demographic variables, the younger average age, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees and the population density were all positive predictors for both the origin of the trip and the travel destination. The origins and destinations of the trips are highly centralized in Washington DC and anchored at the start locations of the scooters.
“Unlike travel destinations, the origin of the trip is primarily predicted by the number of scooters available in a particular segment over the course of a day,” said Dr. Louis A. Merlin, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU. “Our model is able to identify segments with a high expected demand for scooters and correctly identify 56 to 60 percent of the segments in the top 5 percent of use in travel destinations. Therefore, transportation planners can use this or similar models customized for their city to identify road segments with high demand for scooter parking. Such models can also predict redevelopment areas that are likely to require scooter parking. “
The results showed that built environmental variables also had a statistically significant relationship with the origin of the trip – commercial square feet and condominium square feet are positively correlated. In contrast, living space, parks and national parks are negatively correlated. However, all of these effects are smaller than in the corresponding travel destination models.
“We believe the evidence is more compelling that drivers use scooters for transit entry and exit. Using an inferred demand framework, we tried to identify the most common types of origins and destinations for scooter travel – apartment buildings, business parks, tourist stops, parks, and hotels, ”Merlin said. “The fact that post-screening transit stops are still important to these other types of destinations suggests that the stops themselves are likely to be a draw for scooter travel destinations.”
For the study, the researchers used four-week data between June 17 and July 14, 2019 and selected this period because it represents the month with the highest usage. From this period, they selected data for four weeks on weekdays from Monday to Thursday for a total of 16 weekdays and four Saturdays. The data standard used by scooter companies is called the General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS). The GBFS data attributes include the scooter ID, the latitude and longitude of the scooter location and the battery level. To protect the privacy of users, only the data from “free vehicles” (unused scooters) are available.
Co-authors of the study are Dr. Xiang Yan, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida; and Yiming Xu and Xilei Zhao, Ph.D., Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering, University of Florida.
This research was supported in part by the US Department of Transportation through the Southeast 4 Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education (STRIDE) Region 4 Transportation Center (Grant No. 69A3551747104).
– FAU –
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, founded in 1961, officially opened in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today the university looks after more than 30,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students at six locations on the southeast coast of Florida. In recent years, the university has doubled its research spending and outperformed its peers in academic achievement. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model in which traditional performance gaps disappear. FAU is a Spanish-speaking institution ranked one of the best public universities by US News & World Report and a high research activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching. Further information can be found at www.fau.edu.