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Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

Micro-Mobility, E-Scooters and Implications for Higher Education

If young Millennials and Gen Z’ers continue to disrupt through greater adoption of other modes of transportation in the sharing economy and advancements in driver-assisted and self-driving vehicles continue, expect our cities to start to transform. With less disposable income than previous generations, a heighten consciousness toward the environment and disinclination to purchase big ticket items, it is likely that these young adults will adopt micro-mobility methods of transportation. If these generations fuel the growth in e-scooters, e-bikes and pedal bikes and e-scooters as major modes of commuting, then one can expect changes to our cities, such as safety lanes, dedicated lanes, charging stations and a decrease in one-person automobile-owned commutes. The carbon footprint could also be reduced with an increase in health as well. With change, comes opportunities for institutions of higher education. New degrees, certificates and opportunities in the trades will emerge.

Generation Z and Millennials, coupled with favorable trends regarding renewable energy and resource sharing, are quickly fueling a change within the transportation landscape.  Some have labeled the phenomenon “micro-mobility.” This term originally referred to personal vehicles for one or two passengers with the most common example being a standard pedal bike.  Now, however, it describes new forms of transportation that include docked bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, and even skateboards or e-skateboards often used in an urban setting.

E-bikes and e-scooters have emerged as primary options for riders looking for micro-mobility in large city markets. The first semblance of modern bikeshare was seen in Copenhagen in 1995. However, it took 15 years for large-scale adoption of the bikesharing practice in the U.S., with Washington D.C. launching Capital Bikeshare as a commitment to the bikeshare model, replacing the pilot program launched two years earlier. In 2013, New York city launched its corporate sponsorship funding bikeshare program, a unique model using no public funds. That year, Chicago and San Francisco also launched their bikesharing programs. The key features of these bikesharing systems were dock stations and monthly membership fees.

It was not until 2017 that the defining feature of micro-mobility began to emerge: a dockless system. Private companies like LimeBikes and Vbikes launched their dockless bikes in cities including San Francisco. However, in just a year, the dockless micro-mobility model has all but shifted to e-scooters. A  pilot program in Washington D.C. originally had five companies offering dockless bikes, with promises of expanding the bike-sharing market. By Spring 2018, the program had almost completely shifted to e-scooters, with two of the biggest dockless bike operators, Mobike and Ofo, leaving the pilot that summer, citing an over-regulated market. At the same time, dockless e-scooters became popular, with all but the Uber-owned company Jump choosing to fill its government-given allocation of micro-mobility vehicles exclusively with scooters. Many other U.S. cities are following this trend. Shared pedal bikes are quickly disappearing in cities including Seattle, Washington D.C., Dallas, Camden, Chicago, and Boston in 2018.

Micro-mobility companies report that electric vehicles are much more popular for ridesharing, indicating that dockless e-bikes are twice as popular as standard bikes. Even more popular than dockless e-bikes are dockless e-scooters, with micro-mobility companies reporting that dockless e-scooters are two and a half times as popular among riders. These companies are responding accordingly. One of the biggest e-scooter companies, Lime, was originally called LimeBikes, but rebranded in May 2018, transitioning from dockless e-bikes to dockless e-scooters in May 2018.

Among micro-mobility companies, e-scooters are seeing the highest rates of adoption in U.S. metropolitan areas. In under one year, e-scooters saw 3.6%  growth, similar to the growth seen by ridesharing giants like Uber and Lyft. Bikesharing companies like Motivate have seen positive growth in the past eight years, but the future is uncertain. The adoption of bikesharing will see a healthy bump due to the advent of the e-bike; however, bikesharing will also  have a very large segment of its market taken by the more popular e-scooter option. It is clear that e-scooters are the dominant option in the micro-mobility market. Ridesharing options have all seen logarithmic growth, meaning that in eight years, the e-scooter market can expect to see much greater linear growth than 28.8%. Given these forecasts, the main focus of this paper will be on dockless e-scooters.

Click here to download the white paper “Micro-Mobility, E-Scooters and Implications for Higher Education”.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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