Are you constantly using your bike to get around the city? Have you ever wondered why Toronto doesn’t have e-scooters?
With the City of Toronto’s decarbonization goals, additional strides could be made to further expand Toronto’s micromobility reach. Restructuring the City’s current financing structure for micromobility, has HUGE potential to reduce emissions, cut congestions, and the noise pollution in the city.
So what exactly is micromobility? Micromobility refers to light-weight devices for transportation, i.e. not cars, trucks or buses, but yes to bikes, scooters, skateboards, rickshaws or rollerblades. Micromobility is often at the core of a self-service program, where people rent vehicles for short periods to get around a town or city. E-scooters are electric scooters that have a motor, which helps them move quickly and easily (as seen in the picture below on the left). E-bikes are similar to traditional bikes with the real difference being the added electrical components.
Imagine your frustration when there is a delay in the TTC and the Uber or Lyft prices have skyrocketed, leaving you with no options. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have become an increasingly popular way to get major infrastructure projects built. McKinsey sees them as ‘a tool to deliver effective, cost-efficient projects and associated services.’
This is no magic! A public-private system, where a private company assumes the responsibility for the upkeep of the system, in exchange for a public benefit, such as advertising space, can serve to increase efficiencies and lower costs, ultimately lowering the price for customers. It is a win-win situation.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an additional way to travel? You might remember hearing about a province-wide five-year pilot in 2020 that gave municipalities the choice to approve e-scooters on public roadways. Toronto chose to not take part in this programme.
The City of Toronto could consider implementing the e-scooter pilot in a way that promotes accessibility and safety. This can be done by working with private companies to make the roads in Toronto more accessible to e-scooters, as was done in the City of Ottawa in 2020 after a successful pilot project. By prohibiting e-scooters on public streets, bike lanes, sidewalks, pathways, trails and other public spaces, it limits the city’s ability to promote micromobility, especially in a time when many private companies are willing to fund the program.
Let’s quickly teleport to the European microbility space…
Europe is a leading player in the field of sustainability, and its advancements in micromobility offer unique insights into how North American cities can use private investments to finance projects in micromobility. Japan and China are also leaders in the field of micromobility. Think about the benefits… a reduction in emissions, the social benefit of quieter traffic, and reduced traffic congestion. Many private firms are willing to finance these projects and help cities decarbonize. Given that markets such as bicycle sharing and e-scooter rentals are not known to make large profit margins, this is hinting that investors are willing to forgo returns to make a positive impact in their city.
Private e-bike companies have the resources, through climate-conscious investors, to finance these projects but need the government’s assistance to create regulations that allow for their entrance to the market. Governments usually have the best local networks and access within a region, and can use financial incentives to make micromobility services affordable and widely available.
Cities will benefit tremendously from the value generation that comes from private and public partnerships helping to drive down costs and improve efficiencies. This is an opportunity for the public sector to partner with the private sector to accelerate this important transition.
Speaking of micromobility and bikes – did you hear about how the pandemic led to 100+ secure, indoor bike parking spots for TeamUHN? Read about it here. No bike? No problem! Bikeshare Toronto is a fantastic example of micromobility, and UHN staff are able to receive a 25% discount!