Stories > How to Cut Ride Hail Use by 50%

How to Cut Ride Hail Use by 50%

October 22nd, 2019

Electric Mopeds are a Decongestant for City Streets.

Everyone in a city is wants to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. That’s the main reason why so many new modes of transportation have taken off in the last few years. The best of these new modes offer people something better and more efficient than taking a car, but still help them to quickly get where they need to go. The worst of them make people want to use cars more, adding to the city’s congestion and pollution. 

Micromobility (including scooters, bikes, and other small vehicles built for city use) is all about giving people a city-friendly way of getting around so they don’t have to drive or be driven on our congested city streets. Scooters are the most popular example of this because they are so useful and fun for those short trips we all take several times a day. But for trips longer than a couple of miles (the kind of trip someone might consider using a car for) there is something even better than an electric scooter: an electric moped.

An electric moped (or motor scooter) is different from an electric (kick-style) scooter in several important respects: You sit on it, rather than stand. It has bigger wheels, more like a Vespa or a small bicycle. It goes faster, usually between 20 and 30 MPH. The faster ones come with helmets.

All of these differences add up to the most important difference of all: electric mopeds are perfect for those two- to five-mile trips across town that just happen to be exactly what car-based ridehail services are often used for. 

And that’s the key right there: Electric mopeds are the anti-ridehail. 

Don’t like paying for a car and driver only to sit in traffic? Moped. 

Wish your city didn’t have as much traffic to begin with? Moped. 

Think riding a two-wheeler is more fun than sitting in the back of someone’s four-wheeler? Moped.

City officials in particular are intrigued. They have struggled to regulate ridehail services and have seen their streets choked with ridehail vehicles as a result. 

Electric mopeds are a decongestant. In San Francisco, where shared electric mopeds first emerged and where Uber and Lyft are also popular, most rides on an electric moped substitute for rides in a car, usually an Uber or Lyft. Meaning if the electric moped hadn’t been there to ride, the rider would probably have taken a ridehail vehicle, adding just a little bit more to the city’s traffic and air pollution. But since she took an electric moped, she added nothing to the city’s congestion and pollution, paid less for her ride than if she had hired a car with a driver, had more fun, and possibly arrived at her destination earlier. 

The more electric mopeds a city has, the less it needs Uber and Lyft. Of course some trips will always make more sense with a car and a driver, like if it’s pouring rain or if you had a big night out and need someone else to drive. But when urbanites have another way to get someplace quickly, fewer people drive or are driven and traffic and air quality will improve. 

To play this out, let’s say at least half of all Uber and Lyft rides in San Francisco don’t really require a car, meaning the weather is decent and the person taking the ride is sober, didn’t just buy a week’s worth of groceries, and isn’t on her way to the airport or some other distant destination. While Uber and Lyft are very careful not to say how many cars they have on the road at any one time, you can infer from public data that it is usually a few thousand each in San Francisco on a typical day, doing somewhere north of 170,000 rides each day. So there is probably demand for at least 85,000 electric moped rides in San Francisco every single day. To provide all of those rides would take about 20,000 shared mopeds. That sounds like a lot, but that’s just one moped for every 25 cars in the city and only two times the number of shared electric scooters that San Francisco plans to permit in the coming year. In other words, it’s not a lot at all. San Francisco could do it right now.

Our cities need more green, affordable, quick transportation options, not more cars. The simplest thing cities can do to reduce ride hailing traffic is to just give the people something they like more than ride hailing: Mopeds.