September 26, 2018
As city streets become more congested, and people more environmentally conscious, city dwellers are resorting to alternative ways to get around. Public transportation such as subways and buses will always be a critical part of this, but other, newer, modes of transportation are beginning to take off. Below are a few of the methods people are using to move from place to place in cities.
Bike Share/Scooter Share
If you don’t want to purchase a bike or scooter, or don’t have room in your apartment, bike and scooter shares are fast becoming a great alternative to public transportation or driving your own car. Bike or scooter sharing is when a company rents bikes or electric scooters to city residents for a short time for just a few dollars per ride. Many companies require riders to return their shared bikes to centralized docking stations. Others allow riders to leave their bikes anywhere, locking and unlocking them via a smartphone app.
Norwalk has been encouraging the use of bikes since 2014 when the mayor’s office organized a Bike Walk Task Force – now an official, permanent Bike Walk Advisory Commission. This task force, working with the city’s Department of Public Works, created a map outlining Norwalk’s existing bike routes, bike lanes and sharrows (shared-lane markings). They also put together a plan of bicycle lanes that could be created in the future that would be on approximately 5% of city streets.
Ride Hailing Services
There’s been a huge rise in the popularity of ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft in recent years. While not the least expensive transportation option, they’re convenient and simple to use. Basically, ride hailing is a car service with privately owned vehicles where you call a ride using a smartphone app.
The benefits of ride hailing services are many. For one, they easily link people in need of rides with drivers offering them. Secondly, with the use of the apps, there is no need to pay in person with cash or credit card. There is choice involved as you can view a driver’s profile, rating, and reviews. Other great features are being able to track the driver’s location and get notifications. For cities, these services have presented issues as they can take people away from using public transportation and add more congestion to city streets.
The state of Connecticut has recently put in place new rules regulating ride-hailing services, along with 43 other states. In Connecticut, these services now have to register with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and pay state fees each year. Drivers must be given background checks and have $1 million in liability insurance coverage once a passenger gets in the vehicle.
If you don’t want to take public transportation, brave the elements to ride a bike or scooter, and don’t enjoy paying a premium for a ride-hailing service, microtransit may be right for you. Microtransit is an on-demand ridesharing service that allows people to request rides and get picked up in minibus vehicles. It’s basically a hybrid between ride-hailing and public transportation. While you get door-to-door service on demand, the service may also pick up others on the way as it drives you to your destination, making it convenient, but more affordable than the traditional ride hailing services.
Norwalk recently unveiled its own microtransit service called Wheels2U as a pilot program for six months. Funding for the pilot program comes from a partnership with TransLoc and their parent company Ford Smart Mobility, SoNo Collection mall developer GGP, and the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation as part of its pledge to improve transportation services in Norwalk’s urban core.
There are a number of benefits to both riders and cities to some of these new transportation options. Both bike/scooter shares and microtransit reduce city traffic congestion. All the transportation options above ease stress on parking availability. Certainly biking brings with it many health benefits. The biggest benefit for riders is choice; there are now a number of options to driving your own car from hopping on a bike or scooter to hailing or sharing a ride.