The Costs and Savings of Dockless Shareable Mobility Devices
Dockless shareable mobility devices are an interesting transportation option, to be sure, but what are the associated costs? Where are the savings? Do they add value to Atlanta's transportation system? To answer these questions, it's important to look at potential outcomes and current trends, while bearing in mind that the dockless experiment is still in progress.
Digging Into the Numbers
Ordinance 18-O-1322 was issued in January of 2019, to regulate the use of dockless shareable mobility devices in the city of Atlanta. On April 24, 2019, the Office of Mobility Planning issued its 90-day report to the City Council. The results were intriguing and offer a number of interesting details regarding the potential benefits and drawbacks of these devices.
Following the issuance of the ordinance, permits were issued on February 1, 2019. Between that date and the release of the 90-day report, 645,000 individual trips were made using 10,500 dockless shareable mobility devices. That's a whole lot of scooter and bicycle action.
The devices came into heavy use during the weekend of February 1, when scores of NFL fans descended on Atlanta to attend Super Bowl LIII (53 for non-Romans). During that time, the city allowed fleet expansions for the weekend of the Super Bowl. Counting those permits, and the initial permits issued, the city collected $455,600 in permitting fees as of 4/17/2019. But who's counting?
The Cost to the Rider
Alright, so the city is raking in permit fees. But what about the Los Angeles Rams fan cruising the streets of Atlanta on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday, with no clue that their team's high-powered offense is about to score only 3 points? Did that person benefit from their ride?
The numbers here are mixed. The average cost per dockless trip over the 90-day period was $3.06. For comparison, the average MARTA trip during that time was $2.50. Indeed, the average rider did pay more for a dockless device trip than for a similar MARTA journey. However, that rider also enjoyed the open air, the wind in their hair, and the convenience of the dockless system. So, in terms of the benefits offered, the consumer value and cost may well even out.
Ultimately, those who drive and ride in the city of Atlanta will decide the value of dockless shareable mobility devices. The discussion about these devices' value comes down, in many ways, to personal preference and what the individual cares about when getting around. Meanwhile, we can all rest assured that the city will continue to rake in those permit fees. Like the New England Patriots, they almost always win.