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Early results from an Australian research survey reportedly showed major benefits from e-scooters for tourists and local economies. The research team at Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute partnered with Neuron Mobility to conduct a survey of tourists in Townsville, a city in Queensland, between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021.
It is widely known how bike sharing impacts tourist attractions and visitors, leading to an increase in visits and better experience. Until now, there had been limited evidence that showed how e-scooters also helped tourists either visit more local attractions or spend more. And though this new data is based in Australia, it speaks to a larger trend of e-scooter use — especially for cities like Santa Monica where they’re very popular.
The survey in question collected shopping and travel patterns of 140 visiting e-scooter users, as well as the patterns of 80 Townsville residents, with some having bought multi-day subscription passes. The research team analyzed the visiting e-scooter users’ travel and spending behaviors. While their e-scooter hire costs were identical, the visitors who rode the e-scooters the most ended up spending more money in the city of Townsville each day. The more avid e-scooter users (the top third by distance travelled) spent 41% more per day than those in the bottom third for use.
While in Townsville, the avid users completed on average 11 e-scooter trips, covering nearly 16 miles each. Many of these trips — 60% to be precise— would have been completed by walking if e-scooters were unavailable. They would have taken longer to complete each trip on foot, thus limiting the total number of destinations visited. Other trips wouldn’t have occurred at all. One user reportedly commented: “We enjoyed being able to travel to areas that we would not normally have seen or were too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time.” Moreover, many of the users surveyed said they did not need to use a car thanks to the e-scooters.
Per the survey, most e-scooter users surveyed (69%) had never ridden an e-scooter before, but 91% reported they were easy to use. Confirming the positive impact of e-scooters on both city image and visitor experience, 93% said they enjoyed travelling within Townsville. Of the visitors, avid users spent more money at restaurants and cafes, dining in. Light users spent a greater proportion on shopping and services.
As aforementioned, the survey’s methods were applied in Townsville only and the researchers did not compare tourist outcomes across different forms of mobility. But, on the face of it, there is now a case that tourist cities that adopt e-scooter sharing are boosting their image and tourism economy.
In Santa Monica, as restrictions began to be slowly lifted back in Apr., Lyft saw a major rise in their micromobility side with more than 52,000 new riders using the company’s bicycles and e-scooters just in the city alone. According to the company, 14% of riders in Santa Monica said they started taking more shared micromobility trips since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those riders, 41% said that this was in order to change up their routine and to get outside during lockdown, and 50% said that it would have been difficult or even impossible for them to access essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic without the availability of shared micromobility.
Moreover, in order for the U.S. to meet its climate goals people must drive less altogether. Despite meteoric drops in vehicle miles travelled because of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, transportation-related emissions were still the country’s single biggest driver of climate change in 2020.
Per an analysis done by the Rocky Mountain Institute, the U.S. transportation sector needs to reduce carbon emissions 43% by 2030 in order to align with 1.5oC climate goal. Moreover, according to the “State of the Air 2021” report recently released, the five-county Los Angeles region ranks as the metro area with the highest smog levels in the country — mostly because of motor vehicle traffic.