Lime Access •

Riders depend on the affordability of Lime Access — Monash University agrees.

by Calvin Thigpen
Director of Policy Research at Lime

Since our founding, Lime has been at the forefront of the micromobility industry’s efforts to provide equitable mobility options.

Lime proudly pioneered Lime Access, a reduced-fare program for qualifying riders, from the very beginnings of our company’s history. For a company with a mission to advance a future of transportation that is sustainable, convenient, and affordable, Lime Access is a crucial way to live out these core principles. Cities share this goal of equitable mobility, and they generally view equity as a key metric of success for their shared micromobility programs.

Yet despite this joint commitment to equitable mobility outcomes, a recent review of shared micromobility programs across the United States highlighted that very little is known about how effective these programs are. Without that understanding, it’s impossible to know how well the programs are working or where they could be altered and improved.

So when Monash University Professor Alexa Delbosc approached Lime in 2022 with an interest in studying this topic, we leapt at the opportunity. A year later, we are proud to share the results of the study, which surveyed Lime riders in a dozen cities across three countries: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. By assessing the usage patterns and personal characteristics of both Lime Access and non-Access riders, we could compare the two groups to identify key differences. We identified four main themes from both quantitative survey responses and qualitative open-ended feedback:

  1. Lime Access riders depend on Lime to make everyday, essential trips.

  2. Lime Access in combination with public transit supports a car-light or car-free life.

  3. Lime Access can provide an essential option for travellers with disabilities.

  4. Lime Access users love the program and want to see it expanded.

Lime Access riders depend on Lime to make everyday, essential trips

The majority of trips taken by Lime Access riders are for ‘essential’ purposes such as commuting (to work or study), shopping and running errands. In contrast, non-Access riders were more likely to say they were making a social outing.

“Lime is a great way to commute to and from work and public places.”

- rider from Tauranga, New Zealand

Lime Access in combination with public transit supports a car-light or car-free life

Previous research has shown that shared micromobility replaces car use and reduces transportation-sector carbon emissions. But what about broader patterns of car access and ownership? How can shared micromobility support a car-free or car-light life?

Half of Lime Access riders said that one of the benefits of Lime is that it lets them ‘get somewhere without a car’. Other findings in the study suggest they achieve this by viewing Lime and public transit as interchangeable and complementary. For example, two in five Access trips (44%) used Lime to connect to public transit at the beginning or end of the trip, as part of an overall multimodal journey. In contrast, over a third of trips by Lime Access riders replaced public transport (34%), while Lime Access riders were unlikely to replace a taxi or ridehail trip (4% of trips). Together, these suggest that Lime Access riders are less likely to have access to car-based mobility, and that Lime in combination with public transit helps fill their mobility needs.

“It is a great program that has allowed me to keep my job considering I'm supposed to have a vehicle to have the position I have at my company. Not having a car but having Lime and at [an] affordable price is a great benefit to me.”

- rider from Portland, Oregon

Lime Access can provide an essential option for travelers with disabilities

Although the survey did not ask riders’ about any physical disabilities, many Lime Access riders volunteered this information in their open-ended feedback. These riders shared how the program allows them mobility despite medical conditions or physical disability. Many of the disabilities they mentioned are ‘invisible’ and may be difficult or impossible to notice by a casual observer. Yet to the riders, the electric motor of Lime vehicles reduces fatigue and strain that they would experience walking or riding a standard bike.

“When we found out about it, it was a game changer for my life. I can't drive, and I have a disability that makes walking places challenging. Before, I couldn't afford to use any of the scooter companies and so I had a lack of access to going out, and where we lived often didn't have any available. Now we both live in the city and I have access to Lime Access, so if I want to go somewhere, I now have options to do so.”

- rider from Seattle, Washington

Lime Access users love the program and want to see it expanded

In their open-ended feedback, Lime Access customers expressed appreciation, gratitude, relief and even love for the program. But there are clear areas of improvement: when the survey asked non-Access customers if they had heard of the program before, only 24% of respondents had heard of the program. In several instances, Access customers shared that they were enrolled only because a friend told them about the program. Another barrier for some riders was the signup process, which took longer than expected or presented unexpected difficulties in completing the application.

“The Lime Access program has been the biggest relief in my life during these very tough financial times. I was pretty shocked when I first heard about the program because no other company offers financial assistance regarding transportation in this way. It’s such a massive help in my life and really is such an innovative and client centric program. I can’t sing their praises enough for this.”

- rider from San Francisco, California

What Lime is doing to expand the Lime Access program

Shortly after this survey was completed, Lime initiated a partnership with Propel, a financial services company that helps individuals manage their public benefits, to advertise Lime on their platform. Since many eligible individuals simply are unaware that Lime Access exists, Lime took this step as a way to directly reach individuals most likely to benefit from Lime Access.

Another barrier raised by some survey respondents was difficulty in registering for Lime Access, which could be improved by making the registration process as seamless as possible. Oftentimes, with technology and specifically programs for those on lower incomes, the barrier to entry is the difficulty of the signup form and the inconvenience of having to wait days before using the benefit. To address this issue, Lime recently invested in a partnership with SheerID to make the application process near-instantaneous. In most cases, applications are processed in under 60 seconds, rather than requiring Lime staff to manually review applications, which can take up to 3 days. In markets where this integration has gone into effect, Lime Access sign ups have increased by 90%.

How cities can support equity programs’ success

With the exception of Lime, which posted a full-year profit in 2022, most shared micromobility companies are experiencing financial challenges. If cities desire long-term, robust programs, a broader conversation about the role of governments in providing financial support for these reduced fare programs would be productive. Examples from other contexts provide some possible approaches: for example, in Australia, people with a disability who are eligible for subsidized taxi trips can now use their discount in Uber, as long as their wheelchair or mobility aid can fit inside the vehicle. And with e-bike rebates being offered by an increasing number of cities and states, a similar approach could be taken by allowing these rebates to be used on shared micromobility services, especially Lime Access.

Cities may not immediately be able to tap local funds to subsidize reduced-fare programs, so they can look to their peers for how to adopt creative regulations and accounting to help bridge the difference:

  • In Denver, Colorado, the city does not charge shared scooter operators any permit fees (unlike the overwhelming majority of cities with shared micromobility programs) but in exchange expects robust equity outcomes as well as other commitments, like the creation of parking corrals.
  • In Washington, DC, shared micromobility companies that prioritize equity by enrolling a large number of riders in their reduced-fare programs can be rewarded by earning refunds on the per-vehicle permit fees they pay to DC.

Learn more

Interested to see if you qualify for Lime Access? Visit the program website to submit an application.

Want to learn more about the study? Read the full report.

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