The Micromobility Coalition:

On average, workers living in the City of Seattle have access to 382,000 jobs within a 45-minute walk, e-bike/e-scooter, or transit commute, versus 283,000 jobs within a 45-minute commute from home by walk or transit only. This increase is equivalent to making 35 percent more jobs reachable without lengthening commutes or adding cars to the road.

The report details how e-bikes and scooters can help solve last mile problems, effectively extending transit’s reach. This has always been the scooter boosters’ main argument but now we have it quantified and localized within Seattle. The increase in accessible jobs is dramatic in some cases:

Of course, this assumes that:

  1. A bike or scooter can be found relatively close by
  2. The bike or scooter is functioning
  3. There exists safe infrastructure to get the rider to and from the bus stop

41 Replies to “Report shows how e-bikes and scooters can complement transit”

  1. We need a East – west transit option that isn’t a 45 minute bus or bike – these might be great options when it’s not raining, but what should people do in the fall/winter/spring then?

    Biking works in places like Copenhagen, where it’s flat and they have the infrastructure. We need a Seattle specific solution and it shouldn’t be relying on private companies who base pricing at the moment on demand.

    Dc, Philadelphia, Paris, London, Munich all have fantastic public transit. If we had something similar it would help reduce traffic since people would be able to use it.

    1. Jessica, what exactly are you advocating? Something that needs remembering transit: vast majority of the world’s cities have been in their present location and land-use patterns for hundreds of years.

      If you mean that Seattle’s terrain, including waterways and steep grades, necessitates reserving a lot more right-of-way for transit, including several east-west subways…I’d agree with you they’re worth the cost. Starting with getting the public accustomed to and easy with the facts of tunneling.

      Something I’d advocate that’s easy to do and long overdue: The restoration of the public technical library that used to be on the fifth floor of the Exchange Building. For whose elimination we can all thank the author of a lot more transit-related grief.

      Would be a good fighting gesture to give it a prominent place an easy access from the Ruth Fisher Boardroom. And while we’re at it….

      Paint an espresso machine and its cart with Sound Transit colors and I doubt anybody would mind. Whose welcome should correspond to the debut of a fare-collection-reminder named “Tapmunk Blend.”

      Mark Dublin

    2. One seldom discussed issue with Seattle bike infrastructure are not the hills per se, but how the rectangular street grid ignores the grades. There are a few interesting examples of less steep connectors: Interlaken Boulevard in particular, which, according to Paul Dorpat, originates from a dedicated bike trail from around 1900. Burke-Gilman trail is another example that often takes a long way around hills instead of climbing straight over those, and is very popular among cyclists.
      I’d like to suggests that when doing any major street reshuffling, the city should try to build less steep approaches in the future.

    3. I think you’re addressing an issue other than the point of the report. But, if you are arguing cities with exceptional public transit don’t need e-bikes and scooters, why is Lime in DC, London and Paris?

      This Nov 5th remember to vote Sam for Mayor of the Comment Section. Endorsed by Firefighters!

    4. With the cost of e-bike/scooter rentals, regular commuters would need owned bikes/scooters. Thus the main issue is bicycle/scooter parking, as well as the comprehensive bike/scooter lanes we need in any case.

      “Biking works in places like Copenhagen, where it’s flat and they have the infrastructure. We need a Seattle specific solution and it shouldn’t be relying on private companies who base pricing at the moment on demand.”

      So build the infrastructure. The solution is to do what Copenhagen and the Netherlands did: protected bike lanes/trails between all neighborhood centers and throughout downtown. The Netherlands did it because there was a public uproar over cars running over children and wanting a fatality-free alternative. Prioritize pedestrians first and cars last, without loopholes or backtracking. In the US this is considered a “war on cars” and the leadership is reluctant to implement it, but that’s why we have such a fragmented/skeletal bicycle-highway network.

      Re hills, e-vehicles are the solution. Although you can minimize hill exposure to a significant extent by riding around them, along the ridge tops, or compressing the entire climb into one or two blocks. For instance, Eastlake, Roosevelt, and 10th Ave E are more gradual than 24th. Westake is flat compared to Dexter. You can’t avoid a hill going up to Phinney Ridge from the south or west. But Ballard to the U-District on the Burke-Gilman is flat. And Boyleston & Roanoke to Minor & Broadway is flat. MLK/arboretum is a flat ride from U Village to Rainier Beach. When I can’t avoid a hill, I look for the most compressed ascent and walk the bike up it, and rejoice in riding flat the rest of the way.

    5. Hence, e-bikes and e-scooters. Very few complaints about it being hard to get up a hill with an e-bike. Agree though that we shouldn’t completely rely on a private company setting rates to make a profit if we’re going to call it an extension of the *public* transportation system. Should the city consider subsidizing rides, like any other form of public transportation?

    6. Another thought about bike and transit infrastructure. The fact is, *both* take decades to build out. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Amsterdam’s or Copenhagen’s bike network. To say we don’t have the bike infrastructure so we should build the transit infrastructure that we don’t have “instead” is unfair. We should build both. And they will both take time. Of course, the bike infrastructure is a fraction of the cost of both transit and expanding highway. Really, the only excuses not to build it are NIMBY/drive everywhere advocate/identify politics rhetoric.

  2. There is a 4th assumption at play – that the cost is at a level where doing it day after day after day is not prohibitively expensive. When it’s your own bike or scooter, this assumption is satisfied.

    But, with Lime and Jump, the $0.25/min. adds up fast. If scooters replace bikes, the scooters not going as fast (safely) will mean more minutes per trip, which is, effectively, an additional price increase. I originally thought bikeshare was great, but since the prices have been jacked up, I have become a lot less enthusiastic about the service.

    1. Pronto was $85 a year flat, if you didn’t exceed the time limitation, which I never did. And I rode it every day in every kind of weather. The system was poorly designed, the roll out was timed about as well as Trump’s visit to Nationals Stadium, politicians used it as a political football and its manager did unrelated things that harmed support for it, but for those of us for whom it worked, it actually worked quite well. And I could make it up Capitol Hill on one, huffing and puffing, with no e-assist. At age 60.

    2. Although if there’s no secure place to park your e-bike, theft and vandalism might quickly escalate to “prohibitively expensive” levels.

  3. The main thing I like about all these services, other than occasionally using them in a pinch, is that they increase the public groundswell to get a protected, non-motorized grid done, because they generally all have the same huge need for safe infrastructure.

    Plus the scooters and pretty darn fun.

  4. asdf2, agree about the Ballard-UW subway. Which looks like an obstacle-free dig. Which makes it all the more important that we know what kind of rocks, dirt, mud, and water are in the way of the boring machine.

    Really think it would really speed up the decision-making process the more, and the sooner, solid information gets made available on the truly “real world” facts of what’s proposed.

    Question for someone who knows: until the Metro library gets restored to the public, does any agency have this kind of information saved over from earlier studies?

    Mark Dublin

  5. The argument about job accessibility is way too simplistic:

    1. Jobs have a variety of skills required and pay wildly different. Just because more jobs are accessible means that you want those jobs. In fact, many people choose housing based on job location, especially if they use transit.

    2. Jobs have a variety of work hours. More so than location, the hours that one works is a huge driver on why people choose transit. If using transit isn’t viable at just one of those times, the entire transit journey is unlikely to be undertaken.

    3. There are many segments of the population that are unable to use bicycles and scooters. It requires a level of balance and dexterity to safely use them. It also requires that someone doesn’t have large luggage or a stroller with them.

    All of this is on top of the fact that as a whole, many transit trips are not for going to and from work. I can’t find Metro data right now, but I’d suspect only 30-40 percent of transit trips are going to or from work.

    1. Work trips are more like 25%. Every trip to a supermarket, drugstore, church, gym, library, bar, restaurant, or a relative’s house is a non-work trip. People focus on work commutes because it’s usually their longest trip, it’s in rush-hour traffic, and it’s their livelihood. Likewise, people think they don’t walk much because driving trips are the longest distance, but every driving trip requires walking to and from the car.

      1. If you live in a walkable neighborhood, a lot of your non-work trips will end up being walking trips, and don’t need a bike – or transit. For example, when choosing where to live, having a grocery store I can walk to is high up there on the priority list. Shopping trips that I can’t do by walking generally tend to be done online.

        The kind of neighborhoods where every trip out of the house requires getting on a bus, I never considered.

  6. is there really a first/last mile problem in Seattle? transit coverage is pretty good. south of 85th Street, even the sidewalk grid is pretty good. the conflicts over movement and parking between e-scooters and e-bikes and pedestrians on sidewalks is non-trivial. the vendors are disruptive. can they really make their product ubiquitous? the more ubiquitous they are, the more clutter there is. can we make walking safer? coincidentally, Route 45 takes about 45 minutes between Loyal Heigts and the UWMC; Route 44 takes about 35 minutes between the Ballard Senior Center and the UWMC.

    1. First/last mile issues definitely exist. Even places that have transit might not have transit running in all directions; if riding a bike or scooter for a mile or two can eliminate a transfer, it can have a noticeable impact on the overall speed and reliability of the trip.

      In general, for the combination of micromobility+transit to shine, you need not only good bike facilities, but also transit that is fast enough and reliable enough to offer a meaningful speed improvement over just riding the micromobility all the way to the destination. Typically, for such trips, the “transit” ends up being either Link or a freeway-running express bus. For example, you might us it to get to the 41 from Pinehurst, Link from Wedgwood or Laurelhurst, or the 545 (heading to Microsoft) from the eastern parts of Capitol Hill. Riding the Burke-Gilman from Fremont/Wallingford to UW to catch the 271 to Bellevue would be another example.

      Of course, such trips can also typically be made by connecting with a KC Metro bus, but riding a bike is often faster and more reliable than waiting 10 minutes for a connecting bus to go 2 miles, which moves no faster than a bicycle anyway, once it finally comes (and might take a route that is less direct and/or have more stoplights than what you can do with a bike).

      Of course, first/last mile travel doesn’t have to mean rental bikes. It can involve people riding their own bikes too.

      1. Another example is Sodo Station to Alki. You save a significant amount of time biking due to the circuitous nature of the West Seattle busses.

    2. I think it is a problem, but I’m with eddie — it isn’t the biggest problem. With few exceptions, there is very good coverage in Seattle. Some areas don’t have all day coverage, but most do. Those that lack all day coverage are generally very low density areas (an exception being Sunset Hill).

      The biggest problem is our lack of a grid. Some of this is just bad luck. It would be impossible to have a Vancouver style grid — there are too many streets that don’t go through. We don’t really have a hub and spoke system either. We have a hybrid of sorts, with multiple hubs. Some of these hubs make sense (e. g. the UW is a major destination). But others make some trips reasonably convenient, and other trips a big pain in the butt.

      Northgate is a good example of this. It is a major transit center — but it is not “on the way”, the way that Lake City is. Lake City is a major convergence of several roads — if you drive a cab, you probably drive past Lake City all the time, even if you don’t pick up a single fare there. Northgate TC is the opposite. It is very difficult to get to from any place, except the freeway. A hub has its advantages — in this case it is very easy to get from a low density area (e. g. Meridian) to a high density area (Northgate) where you can then take an express to downtown. The combination of 345/346/347/348 has its advantages. Northgate is also connected to Lake City via two bus routes (the 75 and 41). It is also connected to Crown Hill and Ballard via the 40. The 40 crosses every major north-south bus corridor to the west. It is straight-forward to get from various places in the north end to other places: Northgate to Greenwood; Lake City to Crown Hill; Northgate to Phinney Ridge. Unfortunately, many of those trips take a very long time, which is typical for a hub system. This is made worse by the inconvenient location of the transit center. A trip from Lake City up to Bitter Lake (about 10 minutes by car, even at rush hour) takes about 45 minutes by bus. This is not a last mile problem. This is not the problem bike share (or scooter share) is designed to solve.

      Yet this problem is not unique to that area. Even in the most densely populated, highly transit rich part of the city (and thus the state) folks have this problem. Getting from First Hill to South Lake Union is slow. Walking may be your best option: Either that, or you taking a bus downtown, then riding a bus back north. As I write this, at 8:25 in the morning (the middle of morning rush hour) it takes 7 minutes to make that trip by car either direction, and about a half hour by bus. Or how about in Ballard — a simple trip along 65th is again best done by walking: Either that, or taking two buses, and traveling well out of your way:

      In many of these cases, bike share, or scooter share could help. But they shouldn’t have to. They shouldn’t be the only public transit option. These are trips that involve traveling along major arterials — trips that thousands of people take every day. These are not easy problems to fix — as I mentioned, our street layout make it difficult. But the lack of a grid — the inability to quickly go from one place to another — is a much bigger problem than the distance from a bus stop to the final destination.

      Then there is fact that many buses are stuck in traffic, or run infrequently. Last mile problems are an issue — a good bike/scooter share system would help a lot of rides (even some that aren’t considered traditional last mile problems) — but it is by no means are biggest transit weakness.

      1. Yeah, most of the need for micromobility within Seattle comes from trips like this, not from places which have literally no transit options around. These are also the kinds of trips that induce a lot of people onto Uber and Lyft.

        In the case of First Hill->South Lake Union, it is particularly crazy for that corridor to not have a direct bus route, being so close to the city center. There are certainly ways it could be done. One obvious option would be reroute the northern tail of the 60 and extend it slightly, since the existing connection to Capitol Hill Station is largely redundant with the streetcar.

        Of course, just creating the route, by itself, wouldn’t be a panacea. Without bus lanes, it would still get stuck in traffic.

  7. Note that this report does not support e-bike or scooter rentals. Just the benefits of e-bikes and scooters to the overall transit model. Lime and the like are still a community blight, but the tech they’re using is good.

    1. Well, yes and no. It’s hard to lift an e-bike on to a bus rack. So to the extent that these things “solve the last mile problem” I think you have to assume that the user is getting one when they get off the bus or leave their house.

      1. It’s not hard to put an ebike on a bus rack at all. Models one can put on a Metro or ST rack are sold by a well known company in Ballard. 55 pounds as long as you take the battery off. There are also multiple folding models you can bring onto the bus with you. There is no reason to assume rental systems in the data at all.

        The point is micromobility. There’s nothing micro about bike or scooter shares. Especially when you take into account their footprint idly parked on pedestrian paths and sidewalks.

      2. 55 pounds is tough to lift onto a rack, even if it’s technically allowed. There is also the broader issue that bus racks can only carry three bikes at a time, so carrying a bike on a bus is really something that you can only do if everyone else is not doing it.

        It is also something that is only really usable when you’re traveling alone. Even with just one other person, the risk of both bikes not being able to fit on the same bus is just too much. With a group of 4, it’s flat-out impossible, unless you split up and have half the group sit and wait 15-30 minutes for the other half to catch up on the next bus. The point is – on the scale of bus ridership, it is physically impossible for the number of people carrying bikes on the bus to ever amount to anything beyond statistical noise. Locking bikes up at the bus stop, on the other hand, scales far better than this.

      3. 55 pounds is less than 30 pounds per arm. That is easily achievable by the average able bodied person.

        Folded ebikes count as luggage. You can bring them on board even if the front rack is empty. Four different people can each bring one of them onto the bus. This is a selling point for a significant chunk of the ebike market. Get the heavier folder so that rack limits no longer apply to you. That’s not statistical noise, that’s market share and micromobility.

        I will grant you that there are few if any two person capable ebikes that fit on a bus rack or fold up for onboard travel. A child and parent combo is screwed there.

      4. I think you have to assume that the user is getting one when they get off the bus or leave their house.

        Yes, that would make it a bike/scooter share system, as opposed to a rider owning a bike and using it. The former scales — the more bikes/scooters the better. The latter does not (buses can only handle a couple bikes). Carrying skateboards (or scooters that fold up) would be much better, since they can be carried on the bus.

  8. The other assumption is that the traveler is physically able to use the scooter or device. A lot of people are mobility impaired. E bikes are better but not so good if you’re traveling with children or lots of stuff. Not every traveler is a healthy young adult traveling alone. Some folks need transit.

  9. Yes, not everyone can ride a bike but that’s not a good reason not to build safe biking infrastructure. I’m tired of people dismissing biking as a transport mode because some can’t do it. I’ve been to Copenhagen and rode with people from of all walks of life, including families using cargo bikes. And guess what? It rains there too. Believe me, it’s really not so difficult to avoid the rain most days and many times riding in the mist isn’t so bad.

    Bikes are handy in places like Ballard where it’s difficult to park and bus transfers are time consuming. They’ll also be handy if/when light rail makes it to Market street. I’d much rather ride up the hill than wait around for a shuttle.

    I’m no spring chicken and I manage to make it up many Seattle hills by pedaling via my own power (and sometimes in the rain).

    Just wish Americans weren’t so damn lazy.

    1. Yes, we are all lazy because we don’t choose the mode you prefer to ride up hills. Congratulations on being in good health and having time, energy and money for a bicycle.

  10. Wow. I always figured commuting from West Seattle would be pretty terrible, but the above table really drives the point home.

    1. It depends on where you are. It is worth noting that this was not a scientific analysis. The people in charge chose arbitrary spots, and then did their analysis based on that. For West Seattle, they choose Charlestown St & California. I’m not saying they are cherry picking, but not that many people live there. It is by no means the most densely populated part of West Seattle. It is just a spot — a spot that looks good on the map. But it is a spot without direct service to downtown (at least outside rush hour). In the middle of the day, you have to transfer to get to where most of the jobs are. You can see from the map that you just barely get to downtown before you’ve run out of (the arbitrary allotted) time. The microtransit doesn’t help that much once you are downtown, but it is huge in terms of getting from the spot they chose to downtown.

      In contrast, consider the most densely populated part of West Seattle, High Point. Even though you are farther away from downtown, you just take the 21, and you are downtown in no time. My brother lives a couple blocks away from there (in an area once considered scary, because they have people of color) and he thinks the bus service is great. I’m not surprised.

  11. yes, scaling and clutter are issues. how can the Lime-type system both be ubiquitous and not have too much clutter for the sidewalks and curbs needed for pedestrians and bus riders? computing power can only do so much. the bike racks on the buses do have load limits; some e-bikes have tires that are too wide. securing valuable private e-bikes at transit hubs can be an issue. the Dutch know how to do it.

    1. How about instead of telling folks to try and do their best parking their rental bikes/scooters on or near the sidewalk (often in areas that don’t have extra sidewalk width to spare), we have them hop the curb and use the parking lane in the street? This space has already been designed for storage of larger objects outside the path of pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Seems like such an easy solution to me.

    2. how can the Lime-type system both be ubiquitous and not have too much clutter for the sidewalks and curbs needed for pedestrians and bus riders?

      You can’t, really. That is why we need to act like a big, grown-up city and have bikeshare with stations. Have lots of stations (way more than Pronto) throughout the city.

  12. “Of course, this assumes that…”

    No rain…which no REAL woman wants to deal with. Facts suck!

  13. I recently saw a calculation that 25 percent of EU residents are mobility impaired. That figure is almost certainly higher in the US, with our inferior health care. That is of course not a reason not to do bike lanes. It’s a reason to understand that not everybody will be able to use those lanes, and that many people need other options,

    1. When I broke my foot, the only way I could easily get around was by bike. Every other mode required walking a fair distance. Which I wasn’t suppose to do.

      Years ago, I would see a one-legged biker nearly every day on Stewart. I assume he came to the same conclusion I did.

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