Beyond The Gated Community

Recommendations by Micromobility Fleet Operators Reveal Obstacles to Transition to Mobility as a Service

As we venture beyond the gated community, or more broadly, the planned municipality, the options for getting places becomes more complex. Within our community, we may well be satisfied with our LSV/PTV as a viable useful, and quite delightful alternative to our conventional automobile. As our community grows and diversifies, and as our travel needs take us beyond the community, we still rely pretty much on our conventional automobile.

In the mix of debates on climate change and electrification of the country’s transportation systems and modalities, we are often confronted by “experts” and advocacy groups calling for significant reductions in private ownership of automobiles.

Transitioning away from private ownership

There has been much talk and discussion over the past five years or more concerning the move away from private ownership of automobiles to mobility fleets (shared mobility) and transportation as a service. Why the discussion? Hasn’t there been a long history in the U.S. of public transportation, that is, a history of shared ridership?

The answer to that question is, of course, yes, but current discussion relates to a somewhat elusive concept of on-demand fleets in which the vehicle involved, while not owned by the driver or passenger, is, nonetheless, not shared. Thus, we have the variety of two-wheeled (sometimes three-wheeled) conveyances such as scooters and ebikes, as well as shuttle-type vehicles, such as Amazon’s Zoox, the GEM, and others.

Micromobility and shared ridership are not a one-size fits all proposition
While these alternatives to private ownership of automobiles tend to get grouped together in discussions of the subject of transitioning to shared ridership, the difference between the shuttle vehicles just mentioned and the universe of scooters and ebikes is very basic and perhaps obvious: scooters and ebikes carry one rider and the destinations are discretionary. These are true on-demand conveyances; that is, if you can find one easily enough.

Shuttles are, on the other hand, are shared by riders, but the vehicle is no longer an on-demand conveyance. Obviously, it cannot be if it is to be shared with riders intending to travel to different destinations. So, rather than a great innovation, shared ridership shuttles are little more than an adjunct to traditional public transportation, which could, indeed, be useful, but certainly not disruptive or revolutionary.

Recently Kersten Heineke, co-leader of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility stated that “Shared mobility — ride-hailing, car-sharing and shared bikes and e-scooters — could disrupt urban transportation in the coming years.” For this to happen, however, Heineke noted that, “If we think about sizeable fleets of shared vehicles in cities, we will need to either repurpose parking garages or create new spots, new spaces where these vehicles can be cleaned, maintained, parked whenever they’re not in operation.” He went on to say that “Cities will need to establish ‘virtual stops’ for shared vehicles to load or unload passengers, much like a bus stop.” Yes, much like a bus stop…So where is the disruption? The disruption may indeed be the disruption of city and municipality budgets more than anything else. [Please note that the quotes just cited appeared in an excellent article by Dan Zurkowski in the newsletter, SmartCities Dive, 6/30/23.]The article also stated that cities also will need to oversee the private-sector parties that bring these services to market and collaborate with public transportation authorities to properly manage the coming changes in the urban transportation landscape—which brings us to the final issue that directly relates to on-demand segment of the mobility market, the proper and exclusive term for which is micromobility. It is the scooters and ebikes that have been truly disruptive.
The micromobility folks, for their part, are also having their problems, partly financial and partly operational.

All is not well in the world of micromobility

While it is possible to get the numbers for micromobility in terms of urban centers serviced and the number of rides—which is pretty astounding (in the many millions since inception)—the key players have been having their problems. Bird for example recently announced withdrawal from virtually all small to mid-sized municipalities where they had been providing service.

The company’s complaint was that, among other things, the regulatory environment was not conducive to a profitable operation. Apparently other micromobility companies shared these sentiments, because, subsequently the four main players in the market, Bird, Lime, Spin and Superpedestrian’s in a presentation at the convention of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, offered the following recommendations to improve shared micromobility: 

• Limiting the number of micromobility operators based on market size, including two operators for 1,000-2,000 scooters and three for more than 2,000 scooters.
• Limiting initial fleet size to one vehicle per 500 people.
• Minimum contract terms to encourage long-term investment and rider adoption, including two-year agreements for pilots and three to four years for permanent programs.
• Setting standardized, per-ride fees before vendor selection to ensure operators’ financial viability, and enables city revenue from micromobility to grow with increased usage.
• Following standardized data-sharing requirements, such as the Mobility Data Specification and General Bikeshare Feed Specification.
• Creating operator selection processes that address long-term needs and include performance-based criteria and regulations rather than specific technologies or operational practices.
• Allowing people to use shared micromobility with minimal restrictions on where and when they can use it.
• Setting parking requirements based on population and local activity, existing infrastructure and pedestrian traffic to enable a mix of dockless and mandatory parking that meets local needs.
• Limiting shared e-bike and e-scooter speeds to 15 mph.
• Encouraging but not requiring helmet use.

Right out of an economics textbook

Note the first recommendation; that is, “limiting the number of micromobility operators…” Right out of a microeconomics textbook, chapter 10, oligopolistic industry structure, this is a classic scheme for collusion so that rather than compete with one another, the large, dominating firms agree to share the market so as to maximize profits.

Collusion for this purpose is illegal in the United States, and penalties are severe. Had these recommendations been the substance of private discussions among the company executives, they would be in deep trouble if found out. The twist here is that the collusion is out in the open—nothing hidden about it—but rather, seeks the collaboration of government officials. The parties, private and public, acting in concert, based on these competition-limiting recommendations, would have common goal of better serving the micromobility consumer. Thus, an appropriate governmental regulatory system could possibly eliminate, or at least mitigate, the costly externalities of sidewalk litter (comprised of the vehicles scattered about) and an unsafe pedestrian environment—while at the same time preserving the profit incentives for micromobility companies.

A sequel entitled, “Add the LSV to the Urban/Suburban Mobility Solution”

In a subsequent article I will make the case for our beloved LSVs as a logical part of a truly disruptive urban/suburban transportation system. We will show that the LSV in fleet context is the true in-demand, shared ridership vehicle. Stay turned.


Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at  Or check out our website at, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.