Micro-mobility pilot: a Q&A with Passport’s director of urban mobility

Earlier this year, Passport embarked on a micro-mobility pilot with the cities of Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, and Omaha, Neb. along with scooter providers Lime and Spin. We caught up with Kate Wagoner, director of urban mobility at Passport and the pilot’s project manager, to hear about the experience and lessons learned.

Now that we’re six months into the pilot, what’s the current status?

The past six months have flown by! We’ve been working with each city’s leadership to designate scooter parking zones related to policy goals and develop pricing models that will drive behavior changes in scooter fleets in order to achieve these goals. Every city is different and faces its own challenge:

  • Detroit is known as a leader in mobility management and is using the pilot to ensure operators distribute their fleets in designated opportunity zones.
  • Omaha just introduced scooters in May and has very simple goals to ensure scooters are parked safely and are available for citizens to use.
  • Charlotte has been creating new policies for scooter companies and drawing a detailed map, centered on transit, in order to promote the use of scooters as a first/last mile solution and create more equitable access to transportation.

What has been the biggest challenge?

When scooters were introduced, in many cases, it created a divide between municipal leaders and the scooter companies. As part of our pilot, we wanted to bridge that gap and enable a better public-private partnership. There have been challenges along the way to keep all of the stakeholders happy – city leaders, citizens, scooter companies – but, we all have the same ultimate goal in mind. We know that our model of charging for scooter parking will create a supply and demand model where scooter companies can optimize their operations and cities will be enabled to achieve their micro-mobility policy goals. 

What have you learned during this process?

Passport has been working with cities for nearly a decade and understands that no two cities are the same; they have different needs and challenges. Even with a small group of cities, it is easy to see those differences and it makes the challenge of one management solution even more difficult. But that is the great part about technology – it is configurable and scalable. So even though Omaha’s environment looks nothing like that of Detroit, each can utilize the same technology to solve vastly different problems. The same can’t be said for physical infrastructure, which is more expensive to implement and much more difficult to update. We value strong partnerships with cities and believe that the public and private sector must work together to create scalable solutions.

What is your advice for cities who are trying to manage scooters the right way?

First and foremost, cities need to evaluate the purpose and benefit of scooters and approach scooter management in a deliberate, strategic way. Do cities want to provide transportation for underserved communities, supplement current public transit options, provide more equitable access to transportation or just enable a fun mode of transportation for citizens? Once a purpose is established, city leaders can be intentional about their plan versus reactionary, allowing a city to develop the right policy and permits for their strategic goals.

Speaking of policy, what would you recommend to cities who are updating their scooter policies or developing permit systems?

There are three key things to think about when developing a strategic policy for scooter management: 

  1. Requiring scooter operators to share data with a designated third party
  2. Replacing the traditional “cap and fee” model (setting a strict cap, flat fee per scooter) with a dynamic pricing model or usage-based pricing model
  3. Leaving your permit as flexible as possible to contemplate the introduction of future modalities. A permit or policy that is flexible or “future-proofed” will remove a lot of the barriers to a city being able to respond to changes in the market or ecosystem.

What’s next for this pilot program and micro-mobility management at Passport?

We are excited to continue into a new phase of the pilot program, where we can enable cities to charge scooter companies for parking and test our pricing models in real-time. The city of Charlotte will move into this next phase in the coming months and we anticipate that other cities will follow suit. For additional updates on the program, sign up for our newsletter.