Regional Planning for Electric-Assist Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare

Since I believe most of the focus throughout the US to plan for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare has been on the largest cities, I feel the need to push for more regional planning. My employer, which is Clackamas Community College (CCC), has three campuses that are located in three suburban cities within the Portland region. While I am still surprised to be living car-free and working in America’s suburbia, this experience has provided me with a unique perspective on why regional transportation planning is crucial.

As the below map shows, Portland received responses from throughout the region to its 2018 e-scooter pilot user survey. Even though Portland’s e-scooter pilot was legally limited to Portland, I saw e-scooters as far south as Oregon City. I am not sure whether the companies or their customers were fined for parking scooters outside of Portland. While CCC and jurisdictions within Clackamas County are nervous about allowing e-scooters and e-bikes, is it feasible to ban e-scooters and e-bikes in Clackamas County when people will likely keep riding them south from Portland?

Portland Region Escooter Users Home Zip Code

Source: City of Portland’s February 1, 2019, E-Scooter Users Presentation at Portland State University https://www.slideshare.net/otrec/slideshelf

Through serving on the City of Oregon City’s Transportation Advisory Committee and Clackamas County’s Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee and talking with residents, I have learned that many Clackamas County residents are resistant to Portland-style transportation thinking and do not want anything to be planned. They believe planning will bring change to their desired small town and country lifestyles, so they have asked me and government staff to stop all planning efforts. Even though I tell residents that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare could reduce traffic congestion and demand for auto parking, which are their concerns, they keep telling me that they only want to widen roads and build more auto parking so they can get places faster by driving. They do not believe me when I tell them that e-bikeshare and e-scootershare have been proven in other places to reduce auto trips and increase non-auto trips.

Portland Scooter Traffic Congestion

Results from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.

I realize the residents that want to drive likely will not use e-bikeshare and e-scootershare. However, it has been challenging to convince them that other residents like me want to use these shared mobility services. People who want to keep driving will benefit from this because they likely will see reduced traffic congestion and demand for auto parking. As the below map shows, few people currently bike in Clackamas County, which is located south of Portland. This is a major reason why it is hard to convince auto-dependent residents that enough people will use shared mobility services in Clackamas County. I would like to show a similar map for scooter trips, but Portland only released scooter data for trips in Portland.

Ride Report Bike Stress Map Clackamas County

Source: Ride Report https://ride.report/portland

I experienced a similar public backlash when my employer, which was MetroBike, was hired by Montgomery County, MD to expand Capital Bikeshare into suburban areas. Since Capital Bikeshare uses stations and bikes cannot be locked within being docked at a station, Montgomery County could have asked MetroBike to stop the expansion. While some dockless bikeshare and scootershare companies have tried to encourage their customers to park in designated areas, the bikes and scooters are not required to be parked in these areas. This is the main reason why I believe dockless bikeshare and scootershare are coming to Clackamas County whether or not the residents want it. Even if Clackamas County requires the companies to remove their bikes and scooters, bikes and scooters will likely keep coming to Clackamas County until Portland forces the companies to leave the region.

As a planner and someone who wants more transportation choices, I want to be prepared for bikeshare and scootershare. While the public may believe it is not possible to plan for this, I believe it is possible as long as my partners are willing to keep working with me to create and implement a plan. Even though bikeshare and scootershare are quickly evolving, I have found this resource to be useful in my planning effort.

I have only been back in Oregon for eight months, but I am excited to share that I have quickly become a leader in the planning process to prepare the Portland region for bikeshare and scootershare. Since I want to make sure the planning process includes an equity lens and integrates smoothly with other transit services, my partners include TriMet (Portland region’s transit), Metro (Portland region’s MPO), several non-profit equity community groups, and several cities and counties. While Portland has been working with Ride Report to analyze its data, my suburban partners have been evaluating whether and how to include private companies in our planning process.

Portland plans to award permits and launch E-Scooter Pilot 2.0 for a year early this spring and expand Biketown (bikeshare) to include e-bikes this fall when it renews its contract with Motivate, which is owned by Lyft. Since Uber owns JUMP, which provides the bikes for Biketown, it should be interesting to see how Uber and Lyft work together run Biketown. I have never seen two competing companies run the same business together!

Portland Scooter

Next Steps from Portland’s 2018 E-Scooter Findings Report. Source: City of Portland.

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Capital Bikeshare vs. Dockless Bikeshare

As a resident of Arlington, I have a unique location to watch Capital Bikeshare “compete” with dockless bikeshare. I put “compete” in quotes because the mutual goal of Capital Bikeshare and the five dockless bikeshare companies is to get more people biking. However, some bike planners believe dockless bikeshare will pull enough people from Capital Bikeshare that it won’t be able to compete with dockless bikeshare.

Since bikeshare is still new to most Americans, I want to make sure everyone knows the difference between dock-based and dockless bikeshare. As the below photo shows, dock-based bikeshare systems require the bike to be docked at a station. Capital Bikeshare is the main dock-based bikeshare system that operates in the DC region.

2017-12-08 15.40.01

Photo: Ray Atkinson

As the below photo shows, dockless bikeshare systems have bikes that are self-locked. The five dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC region are Jump, LimeBike, Mobike, ofo, and Spin. While Jump is the only company with e-bikes, LimeBike and Spin announced last week that they plan to start offering e-bikes soon.

2017-11-15 16.01.00

Photo: Ray Atkinson

While all six bikeshare systems have apps, which are shown below, it’s possible to use Capital Bikeshare without the app by purchasing a pass at the kiosk. Since not everyone has a smartphone, this reduces the barrier to bikeshare. In addition, only Capital Bikeshare can be used by paying cash. Many low-income people don’t have a credit or debit card, so this gives them access to using bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare vs Dockless Bikeshare

Source: Transit App

I have a unique location to watch this bikeshare situation because of how the permitting process is unfolding across the DC region. While Capital Bikeshare is permitted to operate throughout the region, only DC has given permits to all five dockless bikeshare companies. As this Greater Greater Washington post explains, DC and Montgomery County, MD had an easier process than local jurisdictions in Virginia to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs because they are governed by Home Rule. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means state law preempts local law. Local jurisdictions must receive permission from the General Assembly to act on local matters. Yes, Maryland is also a Dillon Rule state. However, Montgomery County became the first county in Maryland to adopt a home rule charter in 1948.

Since DC is geographically small and dockless bikeshare companies have been struggling to inform their customers that they don’t have permits to operate outside of DC, I have been watching how human behavior and government processes react to this issue. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which is impacting the ability of local jurisdictions to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs and regulate the dockless bikeshare companies. This is why Virginia doesn’t officially have dockless bikeshare yet. Arlington wrote this blog post to educate people about the different types of bikeshare. I found the following statements interesting.

“the six-month trial of dockless bikeshare is entirely a DC project at this time. The operators do not have an agreement with Arlington County so their operating location is within Washington, DC borders.

If you see a bike in Arlington, you can contact the operator to collect their bike to take back into DC, or you can ride the bike back into the operating location (JUMP bike offers a $1 credit every when a bike is ridden back into the operating area).

This is all still very early in the experimental phase so there is no telling right now how policies could change.”

If this wasn’t confusing enough, only four of the five dockless bikeshare companies have permits from Montgomery County, MD to operate in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. I believe the fifth company, Jump, has decided not to expand to Montgomery County yet because it wants to focus on DC. None of the dockless bikeshare companies have permits to operate elsewhere in DC’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Plus, they can’t operate on National Park Service (NPS) property. This is important because the National Mall and regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are owned by the NPS.

Dockless Bikeshare

Map of dockless bikeshare’s service area in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Source: WashCycle

Even if the NPS gave permits to the dockless bikeshare companies to operate on its property, e-bikes are banned from NPS-owned trails. However, I haven’t seen this ban enforced and it doesn’t appear to be discouraging many people from riding e-bikes on trails. I am curious to see whether this controversial NPS ban becomes more heated as LimeBike and Spin join Jump in having e-bikes.

Since many regions throughout the US are working on dockless bikeshare regulations and permit programs, I want to share the below regulation breakdown from Twelve Tone Consulting. The North American Bikeshare Association published the Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Preliminary Guidance in January 2018.

Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Breakdown

Source: Twelve Tone Consulting’s Dockless Bikes: Regulation Breakdown

Dockless bikeshare parking issues have been reported in many locations, so look at Dockless Bike Fail’s tweets for photo evidence. What do you think about the issues I have discussed in this post?

Ray’s 1st International Presentation

I’m waiting at the Montreal airport to return to the DC region. I don’t have time to write a long post, so I’ll write a longer post later about what I experienced in Montreal. Since the main reason I went to Montreal was to present for the 1st time at an international conference, I want to share my presentation. My boss and I, who work for MetroBike, presented at the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) Conference about The “Perfect” Site. If the embedded video doesn’t work, here is the video. My boss’ presentation is here.

 

Here are the presentation slides.

Reflecting on starting my first full-time, permanent job and my job search process

I’m excited to announce that I’m about to start my first full-time, permanent job in Washington, DC. I will be Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, LLC. I copied the job description (removed compensation) below so you can get a sense of what I will be doing. The job mostly involves working with Capital Bikeshare on expansion plans in Arlington County, VA and Montgomery County, MD. Since MetroBike has a global client list, I likely will be traveling to other cities in the US and other countries. Maybe I will work in a city where you live!

metrobike-logo

Bikeshare Planner

MetroBike, LLC is an internationally known bikeshare consultancy and the first of its kind in North America. Established in 2004, MetroBike has a client list which includes local and federal governments, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and universities.

MetroBike is hiring a full-time Bikeshare Planner in the Washington, D.C. region to assist with planning for the Capital Bikeshare system.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

 Qualifications:

  • college degree in planning, transport, engineering, or related field, advanced degree a plus;
  • bicycle facility design experience;
  • 3 – 5 years of related experience;
  • excellent communication and organizational skills;
  • strong analytical and problem solving skills;
  • basic graphic design skills; and
  • passion for bikesharing and urban cycling.
  • GIS skills are a plus.

As I transition into my first full-time, permanent job, I would like to reflect on my initial reactions to the job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. I plan to write a follow-up post after moving back to the DC region to reflect on how true my initial reactions were. I plan to also reflect on what surprised me about my new job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. Since my blog is public and can be seen by my current and any future employers, I’m aware that I need to be careful about what I share so I don’t risk losing my job.

Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike

While I am sure I will struggle with transitioning into my new job and may not enjoy every aspect of the job, the Bikeshare Planner position feels like a dream job so I’m thrilled to start working. I’m especially looking forward to using GIS and an equity lens to analyze potential bikeshare station sites. Since Capital Bikeshare has social and economic equity problems, I look forward to working with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to resolve the social and economic equity problems.

capitalbikeshare_logo

I have so far only mentioned how my job involves neighborhood, citywide, and regional thinking. My job also involves site planning because I will be developing concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Even though I just starting learning graphic design skills during graduate school, I hope my graphic design skills are good enough to create concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Since I have seen many bike share stations installed in a manner that blocks pedestrian and wheelchair movement and limits how much space is available for sidewalk cafes, I look forward to coordinating construction of pads and bulb-outs for the stations. I also have seen bike share wayfinding, markings, and delineators installed poorly so I look forward to helping to coordinate this process as well. Since I’m a data nerd and enjoy writing, I look forward to analyzing bike share data and writing reports. Hopefully, some of the data will show the economic impact and traffic congestion relief of bike share.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

Home-Based Job

MetroBike doesn’t have office space so my boss and I will be working from our own homes and meeting probably at least weekly to check in on work projects. Yes, my boss only has one employee. I have never worked a home-based job before so I’m definitely nervous about how it will feel. Since I have always had a roommate, I’m debating whether to try and find a new roommate in DC or live alone. I get depressed when I’m alone for too long so I enjoy talking with a roommate. However, I’m not sure how easy and comfortable it will be to do a home-based job with a roommate that I just met. In case you’re wondering, my job isn’t 100% home-based. I will have to travel to meetings and check on bike share station installations.

Living Car-Free Again in Washington, DC

As my previous Washington, DC blog posts show, I enjoyed living car-free in the Washington, DC region during summer 2014. I home was located in Silver Spring, MD and Tacoma Park, MD so most of my car-free experiences were based in the Maryland side of DC. I haven’t decided where I plan to live in the DC region yet. My boss said he is open to me living anywhere within close proximity of Capital Bikeshare so I basically have freedom to live almost anywhere in the DC region.

My biggest transportation concern about moving from Portland, OR to Washington, DC is how quickly I can ship my hybrid and road bikes using Amtrak Express Shipping. I was considering whether to sell my bikes and buy new bikes in DC. Since I’m a bike snob and haven’t been able to so far find the specific types of hybrid and road bikes I wanted at affordable prices, I have decided to ship my hybrid and road bikes to DC.

Transitioning from Portland, OR to Washington, DC

My flight from Portland, OR arrives in Washington, DC on Friday, October 7. I have arranged short-term housing with Michael Schade, who I met in 2014 and is also a transportation nerd, until I can find long-term housing and possibly a new roommate. As some of you know, I was a transportation planning intern at Toole Design Group in the DC region during summer 2014 so I am already familiar with the region. I know the DC region has changed in the past two years so I look forward to seeing how it has changed. I also look forward to writing blog posts about my reactions to living and working in the DC region again.

Reflecting On My Job Search Process

Since my job search process was frustrating, I want to reflect on what lessons I learned during the process. From January 31 to September 27, 2016 (I graduated in June so I applied for most of the jobs after graduation), I applied for over 100 jobs, was invited to interview for over 25 jobs so far (I’m still receiving more interviews), and received two job offers. My other job offer was for part-time, temporary GIS Technician at Tigard, OR.

Even though I definitely feel prepared to start working as the Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, I almost didn’t apply for the job because I wasn’t sure if I met the required qualifications for the job. MetroBike’s Bikeshare Planner qualifications require 3–5 years of related experience. While I have worked multiple internships that involve working on bike sharing, including for Charlotte B-cycle (Charlotte’s bike share) and consulting on Indego (Philadelphia bike share), both of these internships were only a few months so they didn’t add up to 3-5 years of related experience. I don’t think the sum of all my work experience, which includes mostly part-time internships, is at least three years of experience. The lesson I learned is don’t be afraid to apply for a job because you don’t think you meet the required years of work experience.

As my previous blog post discussed, I kept being asked during many interviews about whether I have more than just bike planning experience. I tried to convince interviewers that I have multimodal planning experience, but my resume is full of bike planning experience so this proved challenging to accomplish. Since most interviewers assumed I was living car-free because I lived in Portland, OR and my resume is full of bike experience, I was also asked during many interviews whether I am comfortable driving an automobile. I believe MetroBike was the only employer who asked me whether I am comfortable with city biking. The interviewer from MetroBike actually saw my bike during our Skype interview so he knew the answer to his question before having me answer it. The lesson I learned is even bicycle and pedestrian planning jobs that don’t directly involve automobile planning still often require driving an automobile. The Bikeshare Planner position at MetroBike may be the only job I was interviewed for that doesn’t require driving an automobile so I am feeling lucky.