Supporting Transit, People, and Cities Through Challenging Times
By: David Spielfogel, Lime Chief Policy Officer
We’re living through an unprecedented moment in history.
With millions of people ordered to stay home, the movement of goods and services has largely ground to a halt. This has severely strained the transit agencies, workers, and companies responsible for getting folks where they need to go.
At Lime, we’ve paused service in the vast majority of cities we serve to help stop the further spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve in cities around the world. While this was a tough decision, it stems largely from our love for cities and the people that contribute to their vibrancy.
We’re using this time to support cities, to contribute to their health and resilience, and to improve our business so we can be ready for their comeback. We’re also preparing for a post-COVID world that will be dramatically different, especially in the earliest stages of recovery.
As expected, transit ridership in cities across the world has plummeted, and we can anticipate that riders will be slow to return once we reach the other side of the curve. The crisis has left glaring holes in transit agency budgets, threatening the existence of these vital systems. As a company that strives to build connections within cities, we’re focusing our efforts on supporting transportation, a service integral to the vitality of cities.
It’s why Lime asked our U.S. riders this week to contact their members of Congress and urge them to include funding for public transit in the new stimulus package. We’re thrilled that more than 500 of our most civically engaged riders took this step, sending more than 1,500 messages to members of Congress. Their efforts and those of transit-focused organizations across the United States helped secure $25 billion to support public transit systems in their moment of need.
At Lime, we know the value of public transit, and our riders do too. When surveyed last year, close to 50% of them said they began or ended a trip at public transit in the prior month. Multi-modal transportation networks are a tremendous asset to cities, and transit must be sustained for the long term.
In the more immediate future, as we come out of this crisis, city-dwellers will be looking for alternatives that allow them to remain socially distanced. We can’t afford to lose the progress we have made and have transit riders return to cars and contribute to pollution, congestion, traffic deaths, noise pollution, and clogged urban space.
The post-COVID world is micromobility’s moment.
Already we’re seeing the impact micromobility can have in cities on both sides of the COVID curve. In New York, the American epicenter of the coronavirus, the local bike-share provider has seen ridership jump 70% compared to this time last year. Delivery workers, now on the front lines of this crisis, are using electric bikes to deliver food and supplies to people sheltered in places. And cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Brussels, among many others, now consider bike shops and scooter sharing essential services.
For cities that provide hope for their hard-fought efforts to come out of this crisis, micromobility is proving a preferred option as well. In Busan and Seoul, South Korea, we’ve seen scooter ridership return, approaching pre-crisis levels with residents turning to them as a way to travel while remaining socially distanced. In a number of Chinese cities, bike sharing has seen ridership bounce back too.
Micromobility will be vital to the global COVID recovery, and more cities should take note. The common, protracted neighborhood battles over protected bike lanes should become moot, with local transportation departments installing them as a matter of course. Burdensome regulations, fees, and policies placed on scooter and bike-share systems should melt away with the recognition that people prefer to move this way.
And cities will benefit too. Not just from the resurgence of economic activity that transportation provides, but from the emissions-free movement of people; the more efficient use of space; the reductions in car-related deaths and injuries that might otherwise strain already exhausted healthcare systems; and the freedom and joy that getting on a bike or scooter can bring after so many weeks and months cloistered in tight spaces.
At Lime, we’re excited to do our part in cities’ comeback. This is where we’re putting all our energy during these trying times.