Photo by Steve Boland(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

While distances may vary, the average walk most people will comfortably travel to public transit falls somewhere around one-quarter mile. My own comfort zone falls a little further, somewhere between a half and a three-quarter mile, or a 10-15-minute walk. But the quarter mile rule of thumb exists for a reason, a distance promoted by TOD, or Transit-oriented development, stipulating urban development focuses upon land uses around a transit station or transit corridor “within one-quarter mile, or a five to seven minute walk”.

However, not everyone lives or works near a public transit service within a quarter mile, or even a full mile. This is probably part of the reason why nearly 80% of Angelenos commute to work by car (not including out-of-county commuters).

Assuming participation in public transit would increase if there was a method of closing the gap between the first and final mile between commute destinations, what would be the best and most feasible solution to increase public transportation use?

Here’s one idea: Bird.

Following the models of ride-sharing services and bike sharing rentals now readily available across the city, users can now tap their smartphone to call up the service of a Bird – an electric scooter that does not require a dock, keys, rental booth, or even a drop-off location. You simply find your scooter after making a reservation by app, hop on, and go! Their website provides some basic rules:

  • Do: Wear a helmet, as required by law. Keep both feet on the footboard while riding. Ride in bike lanes when available. Park adjacent to
    bike racks when available. End your ride by locking the Bird with the app.
  • Do Not: Ride on sidewalks. Block public pathways or driveways. That’s about it.

Good morning little Italy! #lovebird #enjoytheride

A post shared by Bird (@bird) on

As soon as the scooter is unlocked, the vehicle becomes the responsibility of its user. But considering how prevalent GPS is today, the scooters are tracked in real time, no matter how far they wander, almost guaranteeing they can be found before, during, and after use.

Every evening the fleet of scooters are picked up and taken back to the mothership to recharge. And like clockwork, between 5 am and 6 am the next morning, the electric scooters begin to reappear throughout the city, ready for a new day of use. Initially I harbored some of the same concerns as when ride-sharing apps began proliferating. “Are there really going to be enough supply to meet a demand?” I wondered. Fortunately, anyone can log into the Bird app to check on the availability of scooters throughout the day.

As population of cities grow, density increases, and dependency upon personal automobiles decline, the availability of public transportation will increasingly become a topic of public discussion. But considering it’s much easier to bring riders to an existing station than it is to build a new rail station to riders, the proposition of adding an element of fun to public transportation by way of electric scooters seems a strategy I can support.

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