Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2702 Sat, 28 Nov 2020 14:41:10 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Long-Time Transit Advocate Eyes New York City E-Scooter Pilot https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9820-transit-advocate-eyes-new-york-city-e-scooter-pilot-program-bid https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9820-transit-advocate-eyes-new-york-city-e-scooter-pilot-program-bid scooter smk mus

Link e-scooters on the move (photo: @LINK_Scooters)


New York City is about to solicit bids for a new electric scooter sharing program that could eventually transform the city’s micro-mobility landscape. One firm that plans to seek a city contract believes it has the track record to prove itself and create a network of e-scooters that will be sustainable and accessible to communities of color that have been underserved by the city’s mass transit system.

For years, transit advocates clamored for the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters, which was finally approved by both the state Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo in this year’s state budget in April. In June, the New York City Council passed legislation establishing local regulations as well as mandating an e-scooter sharing pilot program for at least one year and two years at most. Under the legislation, the Department of Transportation is required to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) on October 15, with the aim of launching the program by March 1, 2021. 

The e-scooter program is meant to offer a new option for getting around, especially in environmentally-friendly fashion, and to fill the gaps in transit alternatives, particularly in neighborhoods that currently aren’t served by Citi Bike’s bicycle-share system.

“Now more than ever New York City needs transportation options, especially micro mobility which is affordable, accessible, environmentally friendly and allows safe distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat who sponsored the legislation, in a statement. Though Cabrera acknowledged that the city faces budget constraints that Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has raised concerns about, he urged the administration to create a program that “is as broad as possible to compare and contrast results in different communities and develop best practices, particularly around storage of scooters.”

A DOT spokesperson acknowledged a request for comment from Gotham Gazette but did not provide one.

Transit advocates are eager to see the program get up and running, particularly as the pandemic has changed how New Yorkers live and commute across the city. Subway and bus ridership have yet to recover back to pre-pandemic levels while bike ridership has boomed. The program is also another reason for the city to reimagine its streetscapes, they say, with an eye to creating more room for micro-mobility and reducing New Yorkers’ reliance on cars.

Although late to the game of micro-mobility, New York City has the advantage of being an attractive market for companies because of its density and connectivity with mass transit, especially as e-scooter usage has increased dramatically over the last few years – according to a report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, there were 38.5 million trips on shared e-scooters in 2018 across the country, out of 84 million shared micro-mobility trips.

Paul Steely White, a longtime transit advocate, is now the director of development and public affairs at Superpedestrian, a Boston-based firm that launched its own e-scooter service, Link. The firm, a “second mover” in the micro-mobility market, has won contracts in cities that include Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Rome, and now has its eyes set on New York, where there’s likely to be intense competition to win the city contract for a pilot e-scooter program. 

In a phone interview, White said that his firm may be an “underdog” but it has an edge over some of its more prominent competitors like Bird, Lime, Lyft, and Spin, which are all expected to apply with the city. Link’s chief selling point, White said, is its own e-scooter built from scratch that does not suffer from issues that make other e-scooters unsafe and unsustainable. He said the scooter’s “secret sauce” is its patented “Vehicle Intelligence System,” which monitors safety issues, with the battery or electrical components for instance, and can fix them automatically.

“So that means that it's a safer vehicle. But it also means it's cheaper to operate the fleets,” he said. “The biggest cost that Bird and Lime and really any shared mobility operator incurs is in maintenance and spare parts and depreciation.” White previously worked for Bird. Lower operating costs also mean that Link can offer services in areas that other firms may avoid because of a lack of profitability.  

Link’s scooters also have a geofencing system, which determines the parameters of where the vehicles can be operated, that is native to the scooter rather than based on smartphone apps that have to communicate through the cloud. That allows Link scooters to more quickly prevent people from traveling into restricted zones such as roads or sidewalks, he said, and allows for self-enforcement that will help alleviate the need for the city crackdown on errant scooter riders. The geofencing can kick in in less than a second, compared to almost 30 seconds for other scooter companies, according to a Link presentation provided to Gotham Gazette. 

That last point would likely work in Link’s favor. In a hearing before the City Council last month, Trottenberg warned that budget cuts to her department meant it was short-staffed and may not be able to monitor the rollout of the e-scooter program. “I don’t really have the personnel to do all these programs as well as I want to,” Trottenberg said, according to a New York Daily News report

White noted that Link also does not need to rely on quickly capturing market share but instead is focused on providing dependable services. Early adopters like Bird and Lime, he said, “were looking to the Uber and Lyft playbook of market share as the goal. But what they missed was that that might work for a pure tech company or software company, but these are transportation companies operating in the public realm. So much more important than market share is complying with the regulations and city rules.”  

There are likely to be challenges for the city besides staffing. Though the DOT has installed more than 400 miles of bike lanes under de Blasio, the city’s bike infrastructure remains woefully inadequate to handle a crush of new bicycle and scooter riders. E-scooter sales have already shot through the roof, according to a Streetsblog report.

“There's never been a time when New Yorkers have been seeking new ways to get around like the time we're in right now,” said Joe Cutrufo, communications director at Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group where White served as executive director for nearly 15 years. 

Cutrufo criticized the city for not prioritizing scooters and bicycles as modes of transit during the pandemic, particularly as people continue to be wary of taking the subway. “This should have been a priority for the DOT and frankly, it's a shame that it's not,” he said, noting that last year also saw the most cyclist fatalities in 20 years. “The pandemic hit. The mayor said walk or bike to work if you can. Well, what did he do to try and make it safer for people to be able to do that? Not much.”

He said the city needs to capitalize both on the rising demand for e-scooters as well as the changing use of curbside real estate triggered by outdoor dining. But he seemed skeptical of the mayor’s commitment to it. “The truth of the matter is that if we have the infrastructure to separate cyclists and scooter riders from motor vehicles, we're setting these types of programs up for success,” said Cutrufo. “I don't know if the mayor sees things that way. He looks at the risk as something that he has no control over.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Long-Time Transit Advocate Eyes New York City E-Scooter Pilot Mon, 12 Oct 2020 04:00:00 +0000
How E-Scooters Will Keep New York City Running During the Pandemic and Beyond https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9579-e-scooters-keep-new-york-city-running-during-pandemic-beyond https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/9579-e-scooters-keep-new-york-city-running-during-pandemic-beyond marat mazitov henderson

E-scooters in use (photo: Marat Mazitov)


In June, the New York City Council signaled a major shift in policy when it voted to allow people to use e-scooters on city streets. The Council legalized the private use of e-scooters and e-bicycles across the city and announced plans for a shared e-scooter pilot program that will allow e-scooter companies to operate in all boroughs besides Manhattan.

The timing could not be better. Workers, including health-care and delivery workers, require sustainable, flexible options for navigating around the city. As the recent surge in bicycle sales suggests, people are feeling safer using individual vehicles that allow for social distancing. E-scooters and e-bikes can help us ease back into public life without adding to citywide gridlock.

Before the pandemic began, traffic congestion in New York City was at an all-time high. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, vehicle registrations were increasing citywide while freight traffic and home deliveries also continued to rise. The only way to avoid the looming “carpocalypse” is to support transportation options that get people out of their cars.

E-scooters and other forms of micromobility offer cities like New York a natural complement to the transit services they already provide. And during a time when confidence in transit has tanked, these new transportation options have become even more important. To rely on shared e-scooters, New Yorkers will need access to a well-maintained fleet of vehicles that are waiting curbside.

Over the past three years, cities across the country have been working out the kinks of shared e-scooters and establishing programs that improve safety, equity, and sustainability. While local conditions vary, all successful programs have one thing in common: a requirement for accurate and complete data. It’s critical that the city first define its key use cases and success metrics so they can be measured against real-world outcomes. These goals should be shared with New Yorkers so they can see the impacts of e-scooters for themselves.

There’s no question that safety should be the top priority. While early data indicates that scooters are much safer for our streets than cars, there are still things cities can do to prevent injuries. First, city officials should take a look at streets where riders are more likely to ride on sidewalks because of narrow streets or other impediments. They can address those concerns by building out protected micromobility infrastructure, like bike lanes. 

In addition, parking corrals reduce sidewalk clutter and help eliminate trip hazards for walkers. No-parking zones at the end of a block that accommodate clear sightlines or fire hydrants are great locations for e-scooter corrals since they do not require the removal of any street parking.

One aspect of new transportation services often overlooked is data privacy and security. Imagine, for example, if government could trace trips to a protest back to the house or apartment building where they began. The unsettling truth is that in many cities, they can. In California, the use of e-scooter data has even led to a Fourth Amendment lawsuit from the ACLU. 

New York City must make a commitment to approach data privacy differently, by collecting the minimum data required to ensure the city is able to measure the efficacy of the program against goals. In particular, city officials should commit to never collect data that contains the precise location data of individual riders’ trips. Without a guarantee of data privacy, many would-be riders may think twice before hopping on a scooter.

The decision to welcome e-scooters to the streets of New York has huge potential to change the way New York City residents get around the city during the pandemic — and for years to come. If implemented properly, e-scooters and e-bikes are likely to become as embedded in the city’s character as the yellow cab. If implemented poorly, they may just end up in the bottom of the East River.

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William Henderson is CEO of Ride Report. On Twitter @RideReport.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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How E-Scooters Will Keep New York City Running During the Pandemic and Beyond Sun, 12 Jul 2020 04:00:00 +0000
Care about Climate Change? Care About Scooters https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8506-care-about-climate-change-care-about-scooters https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8506-care-about-climate-change-care-about-scooters climate change scooter 2

(photo: Lime)


Solving our biggest global crisis of a rapidly warming planet means considering everything through the lens of potential solutions, even something as small as the electric scooter.

Micromobility is rightfully capturing the keen attention of urbanists around the world -- including the much-discussed e-scooter. And New York is poised to take advantage as well.

Simultaneously, New York is considering various necessarily ambitious policies to combat climate change and legislation to authorize local governments to roll out micromobility programs. Statewide, transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions, so these revolutions are closely related.

But New York must act decisively -- and quickly -- on both issues if it is going to start reducing its carbon footprint at a rate that allows it to reach its global warming goals and to prevent the harmful health effects of local pollution.

A recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded we have 12 years to prevent the worst of climate impacts. Subsequent reports find our climate pollution emissions have continued to accelerate. Arctic melting has, as well. New York has already felt the dramatic and tragic effects of climate change, enduring the terrible power of Hurricane Sandy.

So any chance to significantly reduce the effects of climate change must be taken, especially when it improves other aspects of daily life. That’s where micromobility offers a tremendous opportunity.

Take the electric scooter itself, an under 50-pound mode of transit. Scooters stand in stark contrast to one- and two-ton cars, and the energy it takes to move them and space consumed to park them. Right now, two-thirds of trips made by car are under one mile. That’s a massive waste of energy when a large number of those trips are just one able-bodied person who could easily -- and often more quickly -- use a carbon-neutral option like a scooter.

People have noticed this when they have access to scooters, and the change trend is already well underway. They have taken shared scooters on over 50 million rides in the last year alone.

Moreover, independent studies by city transportation departments and internal company research have both found a roughly one-third, or often more, mode-shift in cities from scooters. This means one out of every three scooter rides is a trip not taken by ride-hailing, taxi, or personal vehicle, and when most vehicles are still one to two ton gas burning cars, that's a big deal for climate pollution.

It is also a big deal for public health, as local pollution afflicts people with health complications like asthma, and more often the urban young and old and people of color, a threat equal to a history of smoking.

For the New York City metro area, 100,000 shared scooters and bikes could easily prevent more than 300,000 car trips each day. That would also prevent nearly 50,000 tons of carbon annually and 4 tons of asthma-inducing particulates.

Right now, we need government leaders at all levels to have an Apollo-like mindset to the climate crisis and, as a result, measure every major policy decision through the lens of the climate fight. Scooters and electric micromobility are just one of the myriad of solutions we will need to deploy now to have a chance of making an impact on this global challenge.

We’ve done this before. During World War II, every major policy decision was put through the filter of the war effort. That allowed us to turn our economy into a giant cog of mission-oriented productivity, going, for example, from a production of just 3,000 bombers to a staggering 300,000 in those few years.

It’s time to make bold changes in the effort against this climate crisis. If this is our modern World War III, we'd better get moving, big and small, on city streets across the globe. New York can do its part by authorizing micromobility statewide right now.

***
Andrew Savage is vice president of sustainability and a founding team member of Lime, a mobility company that makes scooters, bikes, and more. He is a veteran of local, state, and federal government. On Twitter @limebike.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Care about Climate Change? Care About Scooters Mon, 13 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
E-Scooter Companies Ramp Up Lobbying for State and City Authorization https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8293-e-scooter-companies-ramp-up-lobbying-for-state-and-city-authorization https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8293-e-scooter-companies-ramp-up-lobbying-for-state-and-city-authorization birdride inc

(photo: @BirdRide)


With Governor Andrew Cuomo proposing the legalization of electric bikes and scooters in New York and the New York City Council considering several bills to achieve that goal, the two prominent e-scooter firms looking to do business in the state are ramping up efforts to lobby lawmakers and other officials.

Bird and Lime are barnstorming New York with lobbyists as they seek to expand into what could be a massively profitable market. The e-scooter companies have already established a presence in hundreds of cities across the United States and the globe, presenting their products as affordable “micro mobility” alternatives that get people around while reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

It’s an appealing argument that has been embraced as part of the broader public transit conversation by many elected officials and transit and street safety advocates, particularly in New York City with its crumbling subway system, slow buses, and crowded streets. And that argument is being spread widely through hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on lobbying.

At the state level, Cuomo has proposed giving municipalities the authority to legalize both e-bikes and e-scooters, which many, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, argue would need to happen first if the city is to act.

“Authorizing these transportation alternatives in a sensible and safety conscious manner will provide cheaper and more environmentally friendly transit options to New Yorkers and visitors who can use these options for work or leisure,” said Jason Conwall, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo, in a statement. The proposal includes mandates for the use of helmets, reflective gear, a bell or horn, and a maximum speed limit.

“It will also attract new businesses and generate job opportunities for New Yorkers, and align the state with many other states and cities that have successfully brought this technology to their residents,” Conwall added.

De Blasio has seemed open to legalizing e-scooters, though he has emphasized that public safety must be the first priority. “If I can see something that will create safety in this city and allow people to use e-bikes or e-scooters, I’m very open to that,” he said at an unrelated news conference in November. But while he is in favor of pedal-assist e-bikes, he has strongly opposed legalizing e-bikes with throttles, citing safety concerns, though without evidence.

At de Blasio’s behest, the NYPD has been cracking down and confiscating e-bikes, which are often used by immigrant delivery workers, and fining individuals and businesses (most of the fines are levied against individuals, as reported by Gothamist in January, contrary to de Blasio’s professed plan to target businesses). Meanwhile, the city launched a pilot dockless-bike program last year in July -- in partnership with Lime, CitiBike, and Jump -- which allowed pedal-assist bikes, which are similar to throttle bikes but run at slower speeds.

Scott Gastel, a city Department of Transportation spokesperson, said the de Blasio administration is reviewing the governor’s proposal. “If the State takes action to provide a local path to legalization, there will be a conversation about what makes sense for New York City,” he said in an email.

The City Council is already pushing that conversation, however, through four bills that were debated at a transportation committee hearing last month where Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg raised concerns about the “unregulated, illegal nature” of e-bikes and “particularly their speeds and irresponsible use by some.”

The bills in question -- sponsored by Council Members Fernando Cabrera and Rafael Espinal -- would remove restrictions against e-scooter and e-bike use, create a program to help throttle-bike owners to convert them to pedal-assist bikes, and create a pilot scooter-sharing program.

“Legalizing electric scooters and throttle electric bikes may seem like distinct issues, but they share a common theme: transit equity,” said Espinal, in a statement, “the principle that all people – particularly marginalized communities – deserve affordable, accessible, and safe transit options that get them where they need to go, whether that be for a job, a social engagement, or anything else.”

For certain City Council members, lobbying by e-scooter firms has presented a golden opportunity to attach e-bikes to the conversation, providing what they say is much-needed justice for immigrant delivery workers who have suffered under de Blasio’s crackdown.

“There’s no doubt that the reason that we’re talking about e-bikes today again is because of the money and the power that has been wielded by these tech companies, these e-scooter companies,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, in a brief interview outside City Hall. Menchaca has been among the most vocal critics of the mayor’s enforcement policy on e-bikes, calling the crackdown “discriminatory.”

Over the last year, Bird Rides Inc. has hired several firms to represent its interests including Blue Suit Strategies, Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, the Mirram Group, Dickinson Avella Vidal, and Tusk Strategies, which has close ties to Council Speaker Johnson and is known for its successful effort in helping the ride-hailing service Uber avoid new regulations in New York City in 2015 (those regulations did pass in 2018).

David Estrada, Bird’s chief legal officer, is among several Bird employees who have also registered as lobbyists in New York. By the end of 2018, Bird had spent about $142,000 on its lobbying effort, according to city and state lobbying records.

Those efforts are ongoing and Bird signed retainer agreements with several of firms to work throughout this year. Blue Suit, for instance, signed an agreement to be paid $3,000 each month through March 2019 to lobby before city officials. Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz signed on for a $6,500 monthly retainer through the end of the year. The Mirram Group’s contract, which extends till August, is expected to cost $10,000 per month. Ostroff Associates is expected to receive $5,000 each month till the end of July. And Tusk Strategies’ contract was the costliest, at $25,000 per month for the full year.

Neutron Holdings, Lime’s parent company, similarly hired James F. Capalino & Associates, Urban Strategies, and Yoswein New York to lobby local and state officials for both e-scooter legislation and for expanding its dockless bike share service into New York.

“We are working with both state and city officials to improve transportation options for all New Yorkers,” said Phil Jones, Lime’s senior director of East Coast Government Relations & Strategic Development, in a statement. “Shared dock-free scooters can make transportation reliable and affordable for all New Yorkers—especially underserved communities that do not have easy access to mass transit.”

The company had already spent about $146,000 by the end of last year and plans more. Capalino & Associates’ contract runs through the end of 2019 with a $10,000 monthly retainer. Urban Strategies was retained to work for the company through the end of May for $5,000 each month.

Menchaca is adamant that e-scooter legalization should only happen along with e-bikes, and the e-scooter firms also seem on board since it advances their interests. “I was very clear from the beginning...that we’re not even talking about e-scooters till we figure out what’s going on with the e-bikes and fix that problem,” he said. “They understood that so they’re gonna play...They’re savvy. We’ll do it together.”

And he seemed to partly excuse the de Blasio administration, even as he criticized the “discriminatory focus from the NYPD” on immigrant workers. “We can’t move that much because of the state, the state needs to move to unlock our ability to legislate this,” he said. “So I wouldn’t say that the administration’s not listening.”

Does the mayor really care? “I think we’re gonna make the mayor care,” Menchaca said.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso sees the issue as indicative of a larger de Blasio problem. “The way we’re thinking about it is we’re gonna leverage the lobbying effort made by the e-scooters to make sure that we get justice for the e-bike folks,” he said in a brief interview in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

“I think it’s less about whether or not the mayor cares about lobbyists and immigrants and more about the mayor just being bad on transportation policy,” he added. “Let’s put it in perspective. Who it affects, how it affects them is kind of second to the mayor not understanding that he’s a proponent of car culture in a significant way. So whether it’s e-scooters or e-bikes, I think to him, who’s advocating for it is second to just bad policy.”

De Blasio finds himself increasingly isolated in his position. E-scooters and e-bikes are one of those rare issues where the interests of transit and street safety advocates on the ground line up with those of large firms with a profit incentive.

“It is indeed disturbing to continue to see Mayor de Blasio...continuing to criminalize the use of an e-bike which is an efficient, sustainable mode of transportation,” said Marco Conner, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, in a phone interview he gave while riding a CitiBike, the bike-sharing program that de Blasio has expanded and which started to offer pedal-assist bikes as part of the city’s L-train shutdown mitigation plans. “Meanwhile, he’s en route to inviting e-scooter-share companies and has also legalized pedal assist e-bikes.”

Conner said the mayor’s argument that e-bikes are illegal and so the NYPD must enforce the law doesn’t hold water, particularly considering the mayor’s rhetoric about making New York the “fairest big city in America” with strong “sanctuary city” protections. The crackdown, he noted, exposes low-wage immigrants to the criminal justice system, opening them up to potential interactions with immigration authorities. “Every New Yorker jaywalks daily. Police officers jaywalk daily,” Conner said. “That’s illegal under local statute but you don’t see that kind of targeted crackdown.”

He also suggested that the city should institute a buy-back program for e-bike owners, similar to the NYPD’s regular gun buy-backs that take guns off the streets.

Conner did have concerns, however, about the governor’s legalization proposal, particularly the helmet and reflective clothing requirements, which he said are “well-intended” but would discourage the use of e-bikes and e-scooters. It would also harm the existing CitiBike program, which doesn’t require either, he pointed out.

“Helmet sharing is not a thing and will never be a thing,” he said, while the reflective clothing rule is “a recipe for subjective and racially disparate enforcement.” The governor’s proposal also gives motor vehicles the right of way over e-bike and e-scooter riders, which Conner said should be reversed.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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E-Scooter Companies Ramp Up Lobbying for State and City Authorization Tue, 19 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
It’s Time for New York to Embrace New Modes of Transportation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8230-it-s-time-for-new-york-to-embrace-new-modes-of-transportation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8230-it-s-time-for-new-york-to-embrace-new-modes-of-transportation lime bikes

(photo: Lime Bike)


Over the last few weeks, the governor’s decision to cancel the L train shutdown dominated New York transportation news. People cheered the decision, thankful that thousands of riders along the route won’t be stranded during the week as they go back-and-forth to work, run errands, and shuttle around their city.

But for a lot of New Yorkers – myself included – the L train news provided no comfort. Actually, it stung a little. Because while the MTA and our leaders are focused on merely keeping our existing mass transportation system from failing, there are millions of us who do not live within easy walking distance of the subway, and who do not have any reliable, affordable transportation options whatsoever.

So one subway line will remain open. Great. What about the rest of us?

The subway lines concentrate in Manhattan, then scatter into the outer-boroughs, missing huge swaths of middle- and lower-income New Yorkers. In other words, those who need reliable public transportation the most tend to have the worst access.

Take where I live, for example. To get to Manhattan from my apartment in the NYCHA Richmond Terrace complex on Staten Island, I have to walk for nearly a half-hour to the ferry. That’s almost an hour of walking, both ways. To his credit, the mayor just announced a new fast ferry plan for Staten Island that will help overall travel time -- but actually getting to the ferry is still a haul.

And my commute is nothing compared to others’ across the city. According to the Pratt Center for Community Development, 750,000 New Yorkers travel more than one hour each way to work. Notably, two-thirds of them earn less than $35,000 a year. Most of those New Yorkers are also black or Latino.

New subway lines and stops are not going to fix that because no one is planning to build any. The MTA is a financial mess and new lines are prohibitively expensive. New bus lines would be welcome, but those would also be costly and vulnerable to budget cuts.

But there are other modes of transportation that require little or no infrastructure that could effectively address the problem now – and the City Council held a hearing on them this week.

On Wednesday, Council members debated legislation to legalize electric scooters in New York, and to expand access to dock-free bikes and scooters citywide. The bills – which now have significant support from Council members – cannot be passed soon enough.

There are companies ready and willing to deliver dock-free bike- and scooter-share service right now. Start-ups like Lime and Jump already provide pedal bikes and e-bikes in pilot zones in the Rockaways, part of the Bronx and on the North Shore of Staten Island. My organization successfully partnered with Lime this summer to serve Richmond Terrace’s alternative transportation needs.

These new, convenient options are operating successfully in other big cities such as Seattle and Paris at citywide scale, carrying thousands of people a day from point A to point B and connecting them to public transportation, significantly shortening their trips.

Dock-free bikes and scooters are also affordable. The standard fee for dock-free bike rides is a third of CitiBike’s price and comparable to a subway or bus fare, allowing people of any income or zip code to move around more easily.

And dock-free bikes and scooters will connect a more diverse population to affordable, reliable transportation. Lime surveyed about 600 riders in its New York City pilot zones and found that about 70 percent of its riders identify as non-white. Sixty-one percent of riders said they were from households that earn $50,000 a year or less.

Governor Cuomo recently endorsed legislation that will authorize cities like New York to allow dock-free electric bikes and scooters. The Legislature should pass those bills as soon as possible, and the city should follow suit.

The city’s transportation equity crisis is real. We must deliver new transportation options to New Yorkers -- especially those who are stranded by mass transit. We deserve at least the right to choose a better commute. Let’s make it happen.

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Sarah Blas is the Executive Director of the Richmond Terrace Therapeutic Gardens.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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It’s Time for New York to Embrace New Modes of Transportation Thu, 24 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000