Bike- and scooter-share systems across the country may soon be eligible for the federal transit dollars they need to remain a stable and thriving element of our transportation landscape, if advocates succeed in getting a hard-fought bill through Congress.
Last week, Congressional Bike Caucus co-chair Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and co-sponsors Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Vernon Buchanan (R-FL) re-introduced the long-stalled Bikeshare Transit Act, which would amend federal code to include micromobility projects under the umbrella of transit improvements that may get USDOT funding. Right now, transit agencies can use federal money to build parking for privately owned bikes at stops and stations, but not for micromobility hubs that riders could use to complete the last mile or two of their journey.
Scooters would also get a piece of the pie, too; the bill would make all forms of shared micromobility eligible for funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, with scooter-share specifically named as a potential recipient.
Advocates say that shift could go a long way toward stabilizing and expanding shared cycling and scooting options, which have been proven to lessen vehicle emissions, improve community health outcomes, reduce congestion, and other benefits — especially when systems complement transit networks.
Bikeshare and its cousins haven’t garnered federal support partly because micromobility is still relatively new here. Although informal efforts to put community-owned cycles on the streets date back to at least Portland’s Yellow Bike program 1994, the nation’s first official bikeshare system, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, began operations just 10 years ago.
As cycle-docking stations proliferated across the country, however, annual trips exploded more than 10,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. When dockless scooter-share arrived in 2018, ridership more than doubled, before nearly doubling again and topping 136 million two-wheeled journeys in 2019 alone.
That revolution nudged local transit networks; in the seven largest U.S. cities, underground rail rose 6.9 percent between 2012 and 2018 because of bike share, while light rail spiked another 4.2 percent. (Bus ridership fell, maybe because because residents replaced short bus trips with medium-length bike rides, swapping a low-carbon mode for a no-carbon mode.)