The Problem with Existing Transportation:
Public transportation often underserves those who need it the most. Not having reliable transportation makes it difficult to maintain a job and provide for oneself or a family. Even where public transportation is available to persons at no or low cost, public transportation follows routes and typically can only get you near where you need to go.
The last mile problem describes the issue where the line of public transport is cut off and individuals must find another way to reach their final destination.
How Can E-scooters Alleviate the Problem?
E-scooters are a form of dockless mobility. Because the E-scooters do not have to be docked, the user can pick up an E-scooter where public transportation ends, and complete the last mile.
However, in order to address this issue, the price of E-scooters must remain low or a government needs to consider how a public program might supplement the costs for impoverished users.
One way to do this may be for a government, working with a company, to provide ride vouchers for those who can show they make below $20,000 per year.
Where Should Scooters Be Dropped?
If scooters are not where they are accessible to those who need them, then they cannot serve communities in need. To address this issue, cities could work with companies to ensure at least 10% of the fleet is dropped off in accessible areas, including but not limited to: poor neighborhoods, bus stops, and train stations.
If scooter companies only drop the scooters off in their downtown and tourist areas, they fail to serve a large community of potential users.
The Problem with Addressing Need
Just because the scooters are available to low income individuals does not mean low income individuals will utilize the service. For example, in Portland, users feared racial discrimination and police harassment which discouraged use. This is a larger issue than transportation alone can seek to solve. Both police and communities need to be educated about the service operators of E-scooters can provide to underserved areas.