Do e-scooters fill mobility gaps and promote equity before and during COVID-19? A spatiotemporal analysis using open big data

by   Xiang Yan, et al.

The growing popularity of e-scooters and their rapid expansion across urban streets has attracted widespread attention. A major policy question is whether e-scooters substitute existing mobility options or fill the service gaps left by them. This study addresses this question by analyzing the spatiotemporal patterns of e-scooter service availability and use in Washington DC, focusing on their spatial relationships with public transit and bikesharing. Results from an analysis of three open big datasets suggest that e-scooters have both competing and complementary effects on transit and bikesharing services. The supply of e-scooters significantly overlaps with the service areas of transit and bikesharing, and we classify a majority of e-scooter trips as substitutes to transit and bikesharing uses. A travel-time-based analysis further reveals that when choosing e-scooters over transit, travelers pay a price premium and save some travel time. The price premium is greater during the COVID-19 pandemic but the associated travel-time savings are smaller. This implies that public health considerations rather than time-cost tradeoffs are the main driver for many to choose e-scooters over transit during COVID. In addition, we find that e-scooters complement bikesharing and transit by providing services to underserved neighborhoods. A sizeable proportion (about 10 percent) of e-scooter trips are taken to connect with the rail services. Future research may combine the big-data-based analysis presented here with traditional methods to further shed light on the interactions between e-scooter services, bikesharing, and public transit.



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