Starting Rural & Small Communities on their Shared Mobility Journey

shared mobility in small and rural communities

Picture this: You’re a resident of a small town, nestled about 30 miles away from your much larger, neighbouring city. You love your hometown, the community is friendly and every passerby greets you with a warm hello. However, when it comes to transportation, options are sparse.

Imagine you’re a shift worker, punching in late nights at the local factory. As the clock strikes 11 p.m. your shift ends, but there’s a sinking feeling in your gut because you know there won’t be any buses running at this hour.

What if you were elderly resident of a small remote community? Simple tasks like visiting the doctor or attending social gatherings become daunting endeavors, as public transit options are limited in your area or just aren’t able to cater to your particular physical requirements.

Perhaps you’re a student living in that same area, burning the midnight oil at the town library, only to realize that the last train back home departed hours ago.

These scenarios aren’t hypothetical, they’re daily dilemmas faced by residents of smaller cities and rural communities, highlighting the pressing need for accessible and reliable transportation solutions.

Part of movmi’s mission involves facilitating the connection of small cities and rural communities with successful and reliable transportation systems and we’ve had the privilege of working on numerous projects that have achieved this goal.

In this blog post, we’re excited to share a selection of projects we’ve been involved in and offer insights into our strategies for each endeavor. From real-world case studies to actionable strategies, we’re here to showcase our experiences and lessons learned along the way.

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Developing a city-first micromobility approach

Case Study: Sparrow Scooters

Sparrow is Canada’s first fully station-based shared micromobility operator. Launched in 2021 as a pilot program in collaboration with the local municipality in the South Okanagan, Sparrow has since grown to three municipalities while scaling its fleet to 3X in three years. Its Vancouver-based founders wanted to establish a profitable shared mobility business model while making it enjoyable for users and creating a viable alternative to traveling by personal cars especially in smaller cities.

movmi has been by Sparrow Scooters’ side since day one, offering invaluable advice to the founders, from shaping the right business model to pinpointing the perfect fit for their product in the market. Our journey together led us to the charming rural municipalities of the South Okanagan in British Columbia, where we set our sights on introducing a shared micromobility service tailored to smaller communities.

Developing a city-first micromobility approach

What a city-first approach looks like

Known for its picturesque vineyards, rolling hills, and vibrant arts scene, the South Okanagan in British Columbia has a laid-back yet vibrant community. With sprawling landscapes and dispersed populations, accessing essential services and opportunities becomes a difficult without a private car. 

In order to design a micromobility service for this area, we dove deep into the trends of the micromobility world, focusing on aspects that would be successful in smaller cities while ensuring everything was practical on the ground. We brainstormed a fresh strategy for Sparrow, advocating for a station-based system that combines the reliability of docked bikesharing with the ease of electric scooter sharing—a blend that is both practical and attractive to local governments and businesses.

Crunching numbers, we mapped out a profitability forecast spanning three years, factoring in fleet size, expected ridership, and operational costs to provide Sparrow with a solid roadmap and investment plan. As launch day approached, we fine-tuned a detailed plan, complete with performance metrics, to ensure a smooth takeoff and ongoing growth.

Since its launch three years ago, Sparrow has tripled its electric scooter fleet, quadrupled its user base, and seen a fourfold increase in the number of trips taken. Together, we’ve celebrated Sparrow’s success in the South Okanagan, and we’re ready to keep the momentum going as we explore new options for expansion.

In need of a growth strategy to help you achieve profitability?

We have developed business cases and growth strategies for over a dozen shared mobility operators, helped implement them and tracked the success of our recommendations.

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Assessing the viability of carsharing

Case Study: City of Moncton

Founded on the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq, lies the vibrant City of Moncton, home to a population of 144,810 as of 2016. With rapid growth on the horizon, Moncton is entering a new era of urban development. Recent years have witnessed a surge in active transportation initiatives, including the expansion of bike lanes throughout the city. The city also has the well-established Codiac Transpo, a public transit system that has served residents since 1981. Despite these systems, cars remain a main mode of transport for many residents. In light of this, the city sought to explore the feasibility of introducing a carsharing service—that’s where movmi came in.

Assessing the viability of carsharing

How we assessed carsharing viability

When it came to evaluating the potential for carsharing in the City of Moncton, we took a deep dive into the data. We sifted through key demographic, economic, and mobility patterns to get a sense of how open folks in Moncton might be to adopting carsharing.

We didn’t stop there, though. We also looked at similar-sized communities across North America to see how carsharing had panned out for them. Armed with insights from our research, past projects, and relevant case studies, we pieced together indicators to gauge just how promising carsharing could be in Moncton.

But it wasn’t just about the numbers – we also provided some solid recommendations. From suggesting potential tweaks to parking bylaws to mapping out savvy communication and marketing strategies, we left no stone unturned in setting the stage for carsharing success. And of course, we crunched the numbers, running scenario after scenario to figure out the best and worst-case financial outcomes for running a carsharing service in Moncton.

After doing this work, we had a clear picture of the most effective approach for bringing carsharing to the city, taking into account both the financial side of things and the support needed from Moncton’s policy decision-makers. Two months after delivery of our feasibility study, the City of Moncton approved the 2024 City budget which allocated $50,000 to begin a car share program in the city

Interested in bringing carsharing to your city?

But not sure where to start?

Our step-by-step guide for “Assessing Carsharing Viability in your City” is your guide for introducing an efficient and eco-friendly carshare system in your area.

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Piloting On-Demand Transit

Case Study: Bowen-Island On-Demand Transit

Bowen Island, is a small island off the coast of Vancouver in British Columbia, known for its natural beauty and close-knit community. Accessible by a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, this charming island offers a tranquil escape from city life. However, while the island does have a public transit system, its coverage area is quite limited, underscoring the community’s reliance on alternative transportation solutions such as the private car or bicycles.

From July 15th to September 15th, 2019, Bowen Island, British Columbia, witnessed the launch of its first-ever on-demand bus pilot. Over the course of two vibrant summer months, residents of this quaint island off the coast of Vancouver were treated to a colorful array of chauffeured buses as part of Translink’s TapRide Pilot.

Piloting on-demand transit

Implementing the pilot

From day one, movmi was fully immersed in the collaborative efforts of this project. Acting as the liaison among key stakeholders—including TransLink, First Transit, the Bowen Island Community, and TappRide. Our main focus was project management, with a sharp emphasis on technology and operations. This involved a meticulous process of gathering requirements and assessing technical feasibility, ensuring that every aspect of the service was finely tuned to meet the needs of Bowen Island residents.

From setting up operational logistics to facilitating comprehensive staff training and orchestrating impactful launch engagement initiatives, movmi was at the forefront, ensuring seamless execution at every step of the way. And it didn’t stop there.

Throughout the pilot duration, we diligently monitored, analyzed, and reported on the performance of the new service, ready to take corrective actions as needed to enhance the user experience. By the end of the pilot And the results spoke volumes: throughout the pilot, there had been 1947 boardings of which 47% of users expressed a preference for the Transit On-Demand service over their own private cars—a testament to the value and convenience it brought to Bowen Island residents. 

Thinking about introducing a shared mobility service?

But aren’t quite convinced yet?

Learn more about how our strategic approach can help you create a successful pilot plus take a look at some of our success stories so far.

introducing a shared mobility pilot

Successful launch of a fresh business model in a new market

Case study: eWaka

We first met Céleste and eWAKA as an applicant for our 2022 EmpowerWISM program. Embarking on a mission to transform Africa’s transportation landscape, eWAKA leads the charge with sustainable mobility solutions driven by electric micromobility vehicles. With a focus on boosting the continent’s economic prospects, eWAKA tackles the shortcomings of traditional transportation methods head-on. By harnessing the power of electric vehicles, eWAKA aims to enhance connectivity, streamline operations, and offer safe, eco-friendly transportation alternatives.

Launching a new model in a new market: Our strategy

Our work with eWAKA began with a deep dive into existing business models and market opportunities across Africa’s major cities. After doing this research, we created a tailored market entry strategy for micromobility sharing, exploring growth avenues and weighing B2C and B2B approaches. We also provided vital support in shaping fundraising strategies, ensuring eWAKA’s vision could take flight and make a lasting impact across the continent.

Learn more about eWaka in our interview with Founder Céleste Vogel.
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