A new study on micromobility – the use of e-scooters and pedal-assisted e-bikes – shows that Greater Boston is positioned as one of the areas nationwide that would most benefit from the widespread introduction of such new transportation systems – and within Boston, no community would benefit more than Everett.
The study was released late last week by the Micromobility Coalition – a trade association that represents e-scooter and e-bike rental companies. That study focused on access to jobs for residents of several Greater Boston communities, including all of Boston’s neighborhoods, Everett, Chelsea, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. Using Census data, they looked at jobs available within a typical 45-minute commute on public transit. Then they added e-scooter or e-bikes into that commute and found many communities would greatly benefit.
No community, however, would benefit more than Everett, according to the study.
Without such transportation options, Everett residents can access about 119,000 quality jobs within a 45-minute commute. With micromobility added in, that number jumps to 480,000 – a 303-percent difference. The next largest gain for communities were Chelsea at 79-percent increase and Somerville at a 68-percent increase.
“This is one of a series of studies we’ve done in cities across the United States,” said Micromobility Coalition CEO Ryan McConaghy. “These studies look at the access of mobility options like e-scooters and e-bikes to unlocking economic opportunity…Greater Boston is one city area that could be a prime beneficiary for e-scooters. Around 49 percent of car trips are under three miles. These trips are easily replaced by dockless e-scooters and e-bikes. Boston is the most congested city in America. By moving people out of cars and into e-scooters and other means of transportation, that can change. Boston is uniquely positioned to benefit.”
And, as said above, nowhere in Boston would benefit more than Everett – primarily because of the lack of quality public transit in the City now. McConaghy said one of the greatest time-savers for commuters using micromobility is to bridge the gap for the last mile – such as using e-scooters to get from Wellington to Everett Square without having to take a bus.
“They might be using them to go directly to a job opportunity, or maybe they are using them to bridge a public transit desert – going the last mile much faster,” he said. “It’s no surprise to us there are significant jumps in opportunity in Boston. In particular, you look at a place like Everett which sees an increase of 300 percent of jobs available. You look at places like Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill where it adds to increasing access to existing transportation. These jumps usually happen in places underserved by public transit and places where there are large transit deserts. Micromobility there can unlock economic opportunity quickly.”
Everett Transportation Coordinator Jay Monty said they have seen presentations about micromobility and have considered it as an option to combat the poor transit options now in Everett.
“The fact that we’re the community with the largest increase in the study speaks to the fact that our public transportation isn’t what it should be,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing to me and why Blue Bike and Lime Bike are so important. We can’t build a new Orange Line or Silver Line overnight and BRT is still a little ways out…We don’t have very readily available public transit here and these kill the travel time for people.”
Right now, users can operate e-scooters or e-bikes if they own them, but the rental companies – such as LimeBike or BlueBike – cannot operate e-scooter/e-bike sharing platforms in the state. While places like Everett, Brookline and Boston have tried them out and have prepared for them to come, the state still has not passed legislation that allows them to be rented out like bikes.
Charlie Palleschi was an early convert to e-scooters, and owns one that he uses year-round. As a resident of Charlestown, he said he commutes to Somerville often, goes to downtown Boston, and frequently travels to Everett and Revere on his scooter.
“I was blown away when I first tried one in Cambridge as a demo,” he said. “I began to think that if I had one of these, I could commute from my house in Charlestown to Assembly Row in minutes…It totally changes everything on good days – and getting downtown is super easy. I’ve used it a lot to go to Revere, taking the train there and then jumping on the scooter to get to my destination – kind of using it for the last mile. I can even keep it in my office, which is crazy. I just throw it under my desk. You can’t do that with a bike, and certainly not a car or anything else. Going into downtown, parking can be $40 or $50, and this is free.”
He added that it has expanded the places he considers going.
Now from Somerville or Charlestown, he said he will often ride to the Encore Harborwalk and go further up into the Gateway Mall or Main Street Everett. Those are places he wouldn’t have thought about using the Orange Line, a bus or even a car.
“I wouldn’t have thought of zooming up to the Gateway Mall on lunch, but this expands where I can go and I can get there really fast,” he said.
He also said that, unlike riding a bike, you don’t arrive at work hot and sweaty. That’s an issue for many bike commuters, who need to shower when they arrive at work on a hot day.
He added that the e-scooters are powered by electricity, and his is very easy to charge and runs at about 15 mph on flat terrain.
Monty said they are seriously considering such micromobility options in Everett, and he added that any new construction in the City has micromobility lanes in mind. That includes, in particular, places like the Commercial Triangle on the Parkway.
“In the future, we won’t call a bike lane just a bike lane,” he said. “It will be a micromobility lane for bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters…It’s harder in an established neighborhood where you have existing uses to accommodate, but with new construction areas, it will be a standard for us.”
He said if they were to adopt micromobility sharing in Everett, they would probably use some lessons learned from the LimeBikes – which were somewhat controversial in that they could be left on the sidewalk anywhere. That bothered a lot of people and caused some issues, so he said they would look at corralling e-scooters or e-bikes in one location if allowed.
“With LimeBike, people were leaving them everywhere,” he said. “We want to address that if we adopt these. You can geo-fence certain areas. If we want to roll them out on a large scale, we would go that way to corral them in certain areas so they aren’t everywhere. You could do that on several blocks so they aren’t so far away. They could be geo-fenced into one parking spot.”
Added to the practical uses, McConaghy said they are simply a fun way to get to work or any other destination, “They really are a fun experience because on a nice day you’re outside and the wind is going through your hair under your helmet. It is just a fun way to get around.”