This is part 1 of Sirinya’s multi-part series on How We’re Making Car-Lite Work in Santa Monica. Originally published to Raising Wilshire.
Shortly before we left for our East Coast Adventure, the Santa Monica City Council approved a shared mobility pilot that rejected staff’s recommendationfor a hard cap of just 2,500 scooters. There are already 2,500 Bird scooters alone on the streets of Santa Monica. Instead, the City will be setting up a “dynamic cap” based on utilization rates.
And with that, I took a great sigh of relief. Here’s why:
Over the past five months, I have been relying on Bird scooters to get from work to Wilshire’s daycare on time several times a week.
The cost is modest – about $2.35 per trip, or 65% less than what I had been paying for Lyfts. Their ubiquity meant that I only had to walk about a block or so to find a scooter. Especially now that the closest bus stop to catch the route which goes by Wilshire’s daycare is over 0.5 miles away, my bike and Bird Scooters have been my lifelines.
Had staff’s recommendation of a cap of just 500 scooters had been approved, similar in fleet size to that of the Breeze Bike Shares, this would have brought the viability of the shared scooters for me to a screeching halt. I have not found the bus or bikeshare as reliable. When you have only 30 minutes to get someone on time, consistently, every single day, you start to think about what you can do to remain consistent.
Time works differently when you have a child. And my mobility needs have changed drastically since having Wilshire.
Public transportation – for all of our efforts to shrink uncertainty through the introduction of real-time passenger arrival and bus location information – is difficult to use when you are accountable for picking up that child by a certain time. I frequently paced at bus stops on my commute home, constantly refreshing my app for an updated vehicle position, and sprinted to daycare when I disembarked the bus. On more than one occasion, I texted to say I would be late. This is BAD people.
Then Bird came along. Bird made it possible for me to ride transit in the morning, which is important to me.
So while I congratulate our Council for approving the pilot, I would also implore the City not to stop at simply regulating the scooters. This is an important opportunity for planners and advocates to challenge start-ups to tackle the mobility challenges faced by women, particularly women who are trip chaining with young children. We haul around people and stuff. The ‘disruptive’ mobility startups do not allow us to accomplish either. The Bird Scooter thing works fine for me – but only because we live close enough for our toddler to walk home. This doesn’t work for any other family at our daycare.
And as it stands, from time to time, I see parents with their kids on Birds. Totally against the law. But why are they doing it? It’s because the Birds’ convenience meets an unmet need. And people are willing to pay.
The opportunities here, I tell you.
Until next time,