12 KPIs to Evaluate Success of Urban Micro-mobility Programs
Is micro-mobility helping or hurting our cities? There are many questions helping to frame this issue in communities all around the world.
- Are the benefits to users of this new niche of transportation services greater than the frustrations experienced by those in our communities who don’t use them?
- Does improved connectivity outweigh new injuries and, in some cases, fatalities documented since their introduction?
- Does micro-mobility encourage a shift away from single occupancy car trips more than vehicles such as e-scooters eat into walking, bicycling, and public transport trips?
- To what extent can we justify the reduction of some longer-distance walking trips as an improvement to equity?
- Will the vehicles we are planning for today even be here tomorrow?
Presently, we have a basic profile of micro-mobility through statistics such as vehicle and trip counts, but it is clear from our conversations with many cities, operators, and other stakeholders, that we all seek better ways to measure how well these programs are working in our communities. While every city is unique, and while micro-mobility is arriving at different times and in varying scales to cities, we submit it is still possible to identify common themes that span the globe from which we can measure success.
In the past few years, micro-mobility services have been arriving at unprecedented speed and scale to cities that are oftentimes ill-prepared to manage them. Typically, these services are introduced by private operators and are deployed as a “floating” system, meaning that only the vehicles themselves are physically present in public spaces. Legislation does not clearly define these new vehicles, and new business models do not fit neatly into existing methods of managing private businesses in public spaces.
The transportation community has responded by producing several helpful publications on the topic of micro-mobility, bringing more clarity and understanding to this phenomenon, documenting the growth and expansion of programs in cities, and providing guidance on good practices. Nonetheless, cities and operators still find it difficult to know if their micro-mobility programs are serving the community well, and how well the elements of their programs compare to other cities around the world. What is still needed is an easier way to measure what it means to have a successful program.
At Ramboll Smart Mobility we wanted to push the discussion away from general statistics about micro-mobility, and towards the identification of strategic goals and tangible key performance indicators (KPI). The KPIs can be measured by any city to better understand how successful and sustainable they are in providing new mobility options to their communities, and where they can improve.
We have thus identified a set of common strategic goals that we believe any city or operator would want to achieve. We have done so by considering perspectives, anecdotes, experiences, and factual data from a range of stakeholders and participants in the micro-mobility community, including: 15 cities, public transit agencies, micro-mobility operators, surveys of the general public, micro mobility focused data management services, and regional expert organizations. We then used a simple methodology to propose some potential KPIs that can be adopted by cities to gauge the sustainability of their micro-mobility programs, as well as compare themselves to other cities around the world.
There is an intentional emphasis on e-scooters in the study, but the effort and the outcomes are intended to apply to micro-mobility as a whole.
The Scope of the Study
The study was possible thanks to contributions from many sources. In the early stages of structuring our effort, we recognized that while there were quite a few publications available and being released about micro-mobility, many of them were focused on a specific city or region or contained general advice and metrics about micro-mobility programs. We wanted to build on these publications to expand the ways of describing micro-mobility programs beyond the summary statistics of fleet size and trip counts, towards metrics that enabled cities to better gauge the success of their efforts.
Our team collected and reviewed the state of practice available via existing studies, publications, and articles to better understand what cities were up to and how their efforts related to the establishment of universal strategic goals. This effort was admittedly not comprehensive, but the spectrum of references considered allowed us to form a strong basis for more targeted input sources. With this foundation we then pursued three data input channels.
- Operational Data: Our team was able to evaluate some of the data available to the City of Hoboken, NJ via its data management platforms, RideReport, and Populos. In addition, we discussed the use of specific data sets with both Lime and Voi.
- Municipal Interviews: A major source of our inputs came from one-to-one interviews with municipal officials, operators, and other major actors in the micro-mobility theatre, such as NACTO in North America and POLIS in Europe. We conducted short interviews via phone or online conferencing during which we asked targeted questions about local activities related to the themes presented herein, and specifically about approaches to the strategic goals.
- Public Surveys: Several public surveys had already been conducted in cities such as Portland and Paris. We considered these results and worked in collaboration with the City of Hoboken to identify more targeted questions that could build upon the in-depth survey already planned for the ending days of Hoboken’s six month micro-mobility pilot program. In addition, a City Councilmember in Hoboken had polled the local constituency with a single-question email survey using data analytics by Involved to gather opinions about the pilot program. These data were useful in validating the City’s survey as well as identifying interesting trends.
In total, our research included 15 cities: six in North America, seven in Europe, and two in Asia-Pacific:
We believe the outcome is a strong representation of the successes and challenges that cities of all sizes are experiencing, from unique legislative hurdles faced each location, to the universal needs that every city shares as critical to delivering successful micro-mobility services in their communities.
Measuring the Value and Sustainability of Micro-Mobility Programs
Every city is unique. The people, the cultures, the urban form, the institutional organization, topography, and even the weather impact the way in which transportation services function. While every conversation about micro-mobility is shaped by the influences of the local context, we have approached this project with the premise that we could nonetheless identify common themes that weigh on the minds of the people in any city. These themes are the essential elements that contribute to providing local communities the best possible successful micro-mobility program, including success with respect to the environment, economy, and social well-being. We believe that, regardless of the local context, there are a set of universal strategic goals that every city can agree are important to realize a sustainable micro-mobility program.
In our collaboration with cities and operators experiencing micro-mobility first-hand, as well as other authorities and stakeholders closely connected to the management of micro-mobility programs, we have derived the following twelve universal strategic goals:
The goals were established to allow our discussions to focus on specific metrics that would be useful in better gauging the success of local micro-mobility programs.
The 12 Strategic Goals & Associated KPIs
In relation to the goals, we have suggested a range key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to gauge the progress of an individual city and to allow basis for benchmarking across cities.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
I spoke last week with Krishna Desai from Cubic Transportation, and we discussed three big problems facing transportation, and the ways that Cubic is approaching these challenges:
1) If (or when) more workers return to traditional on-location jobs, but feel a lingering distrust of crowded spaces, people who can afford it may opt for private cars instead of using public transit for their commute. This will create a massive influx of cars on roads that were already crowded, and more financial woes for transit agencies already dealing with budget shortfalls. Krishna told me about a suite of optimization tools Cubic is deploying in places like Mexico and San Francisco to make public transit more efficient, more transparent, and, overall, more attractive to riders.
2) For the time being, though, we’re dealing with the opposite problem. How can transit agencies find ways to influence user behavior in a way that complies with social distancing and capacity requirements? How can you incentivize riders to wait for the next bus? (In a way that doesn’t alienate them forever – see #1). Cubic has deployed a loyalty/advertising program in Miami-Dade County that was originally intended to increase ridership, but is now being used to help control crowding and social distancing on transit.
3) Transportation infrastructure, in generally, was not built to accomodate 6-feet of separation between riders – or between workers. Little things like, for example, opening gates, requires workers to be closer than 6-feet to riders, and there are examples like that throughout every transit hub. Technology can help, but creating and implementing software/hardware solutions quickly and efficiently requires experience with innovation, deployment, maintenance and more. Cubic has a program called Project Rebound that shows the possibilities.
Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals.
Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can now be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network.
The introduction of intelligent transportation systems, which includes a broad network of smart roads, smart cars, smart streetlights and electrification are pushing roadways to new heights. Roadways are no longer simply considered stretches of pavement; they’ve become platforms for innovation. The ability to empower roadways with intelligence and sensing capabilities will unlock extraordinary levels of safety and mobility by enabling smarter, more connected transportation systems that benefit the public and the environment.