Our Rides: New Mobility for The Last Mile
Mobility is more than just a buzzword. It is what we are enjoying right now here in the Twin Cities.
The word “mobility” has many meanings. In this case, it stands for a movement of alternative forms of transportation to driving from point A to point B. This could range from ride-hailing services, public transportation, self-driven vehicles, bicycle, and scooter sharing.
Here in the Twin Cities, the latter two options have just increased mobility options multi-fold. These options now enable Twin Cities residents to commute without using a car, motorcycle, or the bus. However, these new options are interconnected to public transportation hubs in high-density areas.
First, there was Nice Ride. The popular bicycle-sharing service began with just a few “hubs” in 2010 in Minneapolis. The Nice Ride network has grown to over 200 stations in Minneapolis and St. Paul with a fleet of over 1,800 bicycles. They also had operations in Rochester and Bemidji up until 2016.
This year, the non-profit organization was purchased by Motivate, a leader in bicycle sharing in the U.S.A. With a boost from their new owner, Nice Ride enabled upgrades to the fleet with onboard GPS tracking and the ability to have trips end and begin without using any of the stations in the area. Users of the service have access to an app to reserve a bicycle and set up their trip accordingly. You can still go to a station and check out a bicycle to use, as well.
However, Nice Ride just added another 1,500 dockless bicycles to their fleet. They will be located at 200 parking areas in Minneapolis, enabled through Nice Ride’s updated mobile app to access these new bicycles. According to Melissa Summers, general manager of Nice Ride Minnesota, the dockless bicycles “must be left in hubs, many of which are adjacent to existing stations. Most hubs are marked with signs and white tape on the sidewalk, although some private properties will have hubs with just a sign. Look for the blue signs indicating the presence of a hub. On the University of Minnesota campus, any bike rack is a hub.”
“Nice Ride is an important part of shared mobility in the Twin Cities,” said Summers, “[W]e have a vision for a regional shared mobility system that will eventually include more than just the green bikes. Next year, look for e-bikes and other innovations as we continue to offer new options.”
Whether you pick up a docked or dockless bicycle, a single 30-minute ride with Nice Ride is $2. You can get a day pass for $6 for unlimited 30-minute rides during a 24-hour period.
Recently, two new companies have arrived in the Twin Cities with a similar idea. Lime began operating in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, and Golden Valley using either Lime-S electric scooters or LimeBike bicycles. Their model is to have their vehicles “dock-free”, meaning you can simply pick one up by using their app—and go. Lime began with 150 scooters in St. Paul. For either the Lime-S scooters or the LimeBikes, it is just $1 to start your trip.
“We’re thrilled to offer our mobility options in the Twin Cities, as they are a new sustainable and affordable transportation option,” said Eric Kocaja, general manager of Lime in the Twin Cities. “Our dock-free bikes and scooters connect residents and visitors to their daily activities, while decreasing reliance on personal cars and increasing the accessibility of public transportation. We look forward to continuing to engage with the community.”
Bird opened up in both St. Paul and Minneapolis using electric scooters. Similar to Lime, Bird’s scooters are left “dock-free” on the sidewalk and a person with their app can reserve one to use. Pricing for Bird starts at just $1 with a per minute charge of $0.15.
With these new initiatives in mobility, both the Metropolitan Council and the communities these services are located welcome the opportunity to add e-scooters and dockless bicycles to the transportation picture.
“It is understood that shared bikes and scooters can exist as a viable first mile/last mile solution,” said Joshua Johnson, the mobility manager for the city of Minneapolis. “And with that in mind, a focal point for placement of these shared vehicles is near existing transit, as well as where the bike network and infrastructure complements their services.”
“One of the region’s strengths is partnerships,” said Katie Rodriguez, chairperson of the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee. “The [Metropolitan] Council has recently partnered with other governments, including the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and private and nonprofit groups to create a Shared Mobility Collaborative. The Collaborative was created to implement the goals of the Twin Cities Shared Mobility Plan, authored by the Shared Use Mobility Center and funded by the McKnight Foundation. The plan explores ways to expand shared mobility, bike- [and now scooter] share, car share, etc., in the region.”
Johnson also said that “[the city has] taken actions to achieve our ideal picture of mobility in Minneapolis, including our Complete Streets and Vision Zero policies, as well as work in updating the 10-year Transportation Action Plan. This work includes building a robust network of transportation options enabling all residents, as well as visitors, choice in how they move about the City, rather than feeling forced to rely on personal car use. Active transportation is prioritized, and infrastructure enhances safety and comfort for those who walk, roll, or bike. Mobility options are available to all, and operational barriers such as location, technology, or income level are overcome through strong partnerships with both public and private stakeholders.”
Rodriguez adds that “[w]e are optimistic that these new mobility options will complement our transit system. They provide more options for that first-mile or last-mile trip to jobs, school, errands, and entertainment. And, they can be a great option for transit commuters who travel short distances for meetings during the day. They also provide critical options for residents who want to live car-free or car-lite.”
Whenever you are in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Golden Valley, or Edina, give these new alternative mobility options a try. Don’t forget to download their respective apps—and bring your helmet!