Shared Mobility Thoughts

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movmi’s Shared Mobility City Index Planning Tool (SMCI-PT) Case Study: Austin, Texas

Apr 15, 2021

movmi’s Shared Mobility City Index Planning Tool (SMCI-PT) is our new tool that we developed in-house, which compliments our annual SMCI report. Every year our SMCI City Reports are comprised of 20 individual city reports, with each one giving a detailed insight into each city’s situation, including: sustainability vision and goals, city departments involved in mobility, mobility landscape, commuting patterns, public transit, shared mobility services, driving culture and parking. A high number of data points from these reports are collected using our SMCI-PT.

The primary goal of the SMCI-PT dashboard is to provide an interface where we can visually link data with geographies, which we can then use to gain insights about cities or regions. The SMCI-PT is an extremely useful tool when it comes to the successful design, implementation and launch of public and private shared mobility services.

Keep reading to learn more about our SMCI tool and how we’ve applied it to our Austin, Texas case study. To purchase our SMCI reports visit here

movmi’s Shared Mobility City Index Planning TOOL (SMCI-PT) Case Study: Austin, Texas

WHAT IS THE SMCI-pt USED FOR?

Shared Mobility Compass Card

In order to understand how we use the SMCI-PT in our work, here is a list of just a few potential use cases for the SMCI-PT. Every client and project is unique, so data requirements can vary dramatically. We can use the SMCI-PT to:

  • Find the best city to launch mobility services.
  • Find the best geographical area to launch mobility service.
  • Find the best individual parking locations for shared mobility vehicles.
  • Understand the challenges from a demographic perspective (low income neighbourhoods vs high income neighbourhoods)
  • Understand the impact of land use regulations on mobility services (residential vs commercial.)
  • Understand movement patterns if mobility data exists (over time, origins, destinations, etc.)

The SMCI-PT is not restricted to aiding just private shared mobility service providers. In fact, some of the ideal clients that could benefit from this tool would be public transit agencies, cities interested in multimodality, real estate developers, large corporations interested in private multimodal/carshare offers and even startup organizations, to help launch new programs into the market.

Austin SMCI-PT Case Study

jeremy banks 1jEWc28GxVs unsplash
Source: Photo by Jeremy Banks on Unsplash

Why Austin?

In 2019, Austin was voted the number one place to live in America for the third year in a row. This was based on affordability, job prospects and overall quality of life. It was also named the fastest growing large city in the U.S, it ranked number four of the best large cities to start a business and it took the top spot in a study of the best states for female entrepreneurs. Austin’s low cost of living also adds to its overall appeal. There is no personal income tax, and the city has more affordable housing than you find on the coasts of the U.S. The city residents also have quite a number of shared mobility options to choose from.

Over the last decade, both Austin and the transportation industry have seen some radical and innovative changes, for example ride-hailing. In the beginning, ride-hailing in Austin was unpromising. Lyft started operating in 2014, despite the fact that the Austin City Council position that it was not yet allowed in the city. However, that was rectified and it was business as usual for a while. In 2016, after a referendum that would have overturned the City Council’s regulations of ride-hailing companies was defeated, both Uber and Lyft abruptly withdrew from the city. The two ride-hail giants took their case to the Texas Legislature and won, and have been in the city ever since. 

Similarly, the introduction of dockless electric scooters to Austin was rocky. Fast-tracked city regulations and franchise-type agreements drowned out the opposition to the vehicles’ ongoing Austin presence, and at the end of 2019, there were five scooter operators, Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, and Spin with approximately 10,250 scooters on Austin streets.

Austin B-cycle and its docks began appearing in Austin in 2013 and was popular right away. Owned by the city and operated by a nonprofit, it has only grown since then. When dockless e-scooters came to the city, B-cycle adapted with the introduction of its pedal-assist bicycles. B-cycle now has 75 stations and about 500 bikes, with more stations popping up every day. Austin also have shared moped scooter sharing services in operation. Ojo and Revel are the two companies currently operating across the streets of the city.

Car sharing is also available in Austin. In 2009 car2go was the first and only service available in the city until 2012 when Zipcar was launched. Since 2020 when car2go pulled out of North America, Zipcar has filled the carshare void even though it operates a little differently.

In 2010, Austin finally got its first commuter rail line in the form of Capital MetroRail. The 32-mile line, which uses already existing freight-train tracks, starts in downtown Austin and terminates in Leander, a suburb to the north of the city. While ridership numbers were an issue in the beginning, it has increased to somewhat acceptable levels over the decade. Two rapid bus lines were also introduced to Austin in the last 10 years, Capital Metro’s 801 and 803. MetroExpress busses also arrived on the scene. These buses take commuters from park-and-ride lots in the suburbs to the central city.

Now, let’s take a look at Austin’s mobility trends and data using our SMCI software.

Austin: mobility in Low Income Areas VS High income areas

The number of high-poverty neighborhoods in Austin increased from 48 to 79 between the years of 2000 and 2015, according to a recent study by Rentonomics, the analytics blog of website ApartmentList. The study looked at data provided in an extensive report by Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University and found that the city added 31 high-poverty neighborhoods during that period. Unlike most U.S. cities, much of the growth in high-poverty neighbourhoods has been in suburban and outlying areas as opposed to densely populated downtown urban areas.

Low Income Areas: Commuting Mode of Transportation

Using movmi’s SMCI-PT software, we could easily find out the lowest income neighbourhoods in Austin (see SMCI dashboard maps below.) These are households with an income of $39k or below and can be found to the East of Austin’s downtown core. Using our SMCI dashboard, we overlaid transportation data, to find out the most popular modes of travel for people living in these areas.

low income

Surprisingly, we find that despite the low income in these households, the main mode of transportation are private cars, trucks or vans. In fact, 90% of most low income neighbourhoods have access to a vehicle. Despite the upgrades and improvements over the last ten years to Austin’s public transit network and its affordability compared to private vehicle ownership, it’s number of users is much lower than what would be expected in these lower income neighbourhoods. Why is this? Is public transit not as efficient as it could be? Is it not reliable or safe to use? Has it been designed with the needs of the people who depend on it, in mind? Maybe owning a private car is status symbol? Maybe it’s more convenient to own a car rather than to plan your trips on trains and buses?

On the other hand, for those with low incomes living in the city centre, there is a high density of people using bicycles as their main method for commuting, this might be due to heavy traffic congestion within the city or the fact that Austin B-cycle is one of a few successful bike share services operating in that area.

HIGH Income Areas: Commuting Mode of Transportation

We also used the SMCI software, to easily find out the where the highest income neighbourhoods were located in Austin (see SMCI dashboard maps below.) These are households with an income of $118k and above, and can be found to North West of Austin’s downtown.Using our SMCI-PT, we overlaid transportation data, to find out the most popular modes of travel for people living in these areas.

HIGH INCOME TRANSPORT 2

We can see that in some of the more affluent areas, similar to the lower income neighbourhoods, 90% of people own a private cars. Interestingly, the areas that have the highest private car ownership are areas that have the least number of people working from home – which on average is a great deal higher than those living in lower income neighbourhoods. It also appears as though public transit is the least used mode of transportation in more in neighbourhoods that earn a higher household income.

AUSTIN: ACCESS TO privateLY OWNED VEHICLES

It’s obvious that the number of privately owned vehicles is quite high in Austin despite quite a lot of new and improved shared transportation options. That being said, most of these new services have been introduced within the last ten years, so perhaps it’s takes longer than that for travel behaviours to shift and change. Currently, a whopping 83.9% of the population use a private car as their main mode of transport.

Screenshot 2021 04 06 at 09.07.27

With regards to the amount of privately owned vehicles, the SMCI-PT showed us that the only area that has very little access to privately owned vehicles is the centre of downtown Austin. Every other area of the city has access to at least one vehicle and the further away from the city you travel, you see that the number of people with access to two or more vehicles grows. This is due to a number of different reasons including affluent neighbours being able to afford more than one vehicle, farming lands and farmers who require access to more that one vehicle in relation to their work and just a sheer lack of public transit or shared mobility services on offer in these areas. On the flip side, residentsliving downtown may not need a vehicle to live their day-to-day lives, as everything they need is close by and easily accessible.

vehicles

Despite the fact that83.9% of people use a private vehicle to commute, only 11.4% carpool and a massive 88.6% of these people drive alone. There are a few online carpool services available such as myCommuteSolutions, a carpool matching and trip-planning tool for the Austin area, MetroRideShare which provides eligible groups of 5 to 12 riders with a month-to-month vanpool lease agreement, Waze Carpool, and Metropia’s DUO who features streamlines and incentivizes for social carpooling. But perhaps this means there is room for new policies introducing carpool incentives and initiatives within the Austin area?

Screenshot 2021 04 07 at 13.31.57

 

MICROMOBILITY COMMUTING PATTERNS

Micromobility took a big hit from the pandemic, just as the industry was really kicking off. In 2019, McKinsey predicted that the micromobility industry would be a $300 billion to $500 billion market by 2030. , and the future was bright. However, COVID-19 lockdowns saw the level of passenger-kilometers traveled fall between 50% and 60% worldwide, causing the use of micromobility solutions to decline dramatically up to July 2020 as you can see from the SMCI-PT trip frequency data from Austin.

trip data

2018-EARLY 2020

As we can see, since their introduction to the streets of Austin back in 2018, e-scooter sharing has been extremely popular – mostly in more central, downtown locations. In fact, in the same time period, between April 2018 to May 2020, the total number of scooter trips was 7.3 million compared to 0.4 million bike share trips within the city. The majority of the trips took place between 2019 and 2020, once city regulations came into effect.

 

Screenshot 2021 04 07 at 13.40.15

Screenshot 2021 04 06 at 11.39.34

 

Screenshot 2021 04 06 at 11.43.32micromobility trips

EARLY 2020 – PRESENT

Since the beginning of 2020, we can see that there are now fewer areas in Austin that have access to e-bike and e-scooter shared services and that over the past year, the number of e-scooter and bike trips dropped significantly in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That being said, there were still 1.6 million scooter trips during this time period showing, that despite lockdowns and an increase of people working from home, this is still a very popular mode of transport for the residents of Austin.

 

Screenshot 2021 04 07 at 13.40.31

 

Screenshot 2021 04 06 at 11.45.58

 

Screenshot 2021 04 06 at 11.45.48Screenshot 2021 04 13 at 12.41.06

 

austin’s transportation future

Austin is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States, over the last ten years there has been an increase of with 177,079 residents within the city limits. Austin is now the 11th most populous city in the U.S and yet transit ridership numbers have not increased to reflect the population increase. “Ridership has not increased as much as our city has grown,” says Jace Deloney, chair of the Urban Transportation Commission. “We haven’t kept up in terms of providing transit service to the people that are moving here.”

Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development with Capital Metro, narrows the drop in ridership down further, saying,

“Really, any analysis of transit ridership begins and ends with how much service you provide… unfortunately, the reality is we’re just not keeping up. Our service hour, as we call it, has been declining since 2004.”

The actual number of hours of service Capital Metro provides per person in Austin is down, and so ridership is down as a result and these are numbers from before the pandemic, which has greatly affected ridership numbers across the world. However, at the end of last year, Austin voters approved two ballot measures that together promise to reshape the city’s transportation infrastructure. One will lead to new light rail and bus rapid transit lines, and the other will improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as part of an overall citywide transportation improvement plan.

CURRENT smci DATA SOURCES

  1. Zoning by Address – https://data.austintexas.gov/Locations-and-Maps/Zoning-by-Address/nbzi-qabm
  2. Zoning (Small Map Scale) – https://data.austintexas.gov/Locations-and-Maps/Zoning-Small-Map-Scale-/5rzy-nm5e

Download our SMCI reports here.


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