How The Nation’s Fastest-Growing City Built a Multi-Modal Solution

How The Nation’s Fastest-Growing City Built a Multi-Modal Solution

by Adam Greenstein

Adam is a Strategic Partnerships Manager at Zagster. He helps cities design and implement micro-mobility programs that have the right mix of vehicles and operating standards to advance city goals. He is also a lawyer who believes that successful programs depend on true public-private partnerships, and Adam is the guy who makes that happen every day.  

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Adam Greenstein

Director, Partnerships

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, St. George, Utah was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the entire United States in 2018. Retirees come for the dry, sunny climate, tourists come for the vibrant culture and beautiful scenery, and young people come to work, study at Dixie State University, and start new tech ventures. The city’s growth has brought both opportunities and challenges.

"When you have the attractions that we do,” said City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike, “the growth is going to come. It’s up to us to make sure that we [grow] wisely, and in a way that doesn't de-value the quality of life."

Defining Goals for “Smart” Growth

Zagster collaborated with the City of St. George to define goals for supporting the city’s “smart growth” via micro-mobility, including: (1) enhancing community access to the city’s amazing green spaces and recreational opportunities; (2) attracting and retaining young, talented people by positioning St. George (population: about 170,000) as a growing, innovative, and forward-thinking city with great amenities; (3) reducing car congestion that negatively impacts quality of life; and (4) decreasing the need for parking and cars around the Dixie State University (DSU) campus (with its 9,000 students). With these defined goals in place, we began designing, implementing, and (as you’ll see) iterating solutions.

Solution 1.0

A student at DSU

A student at DSU

In January of 2018, we launched a docked bike share program with 55 cruiser bikes, 3 adaptive bikes, and 11 dedicated parking racks strategically located in recreational areas, economic centers, and on the DSU campus. The new program was provided to the City at no cost, being fully funded by local and regional sponsors who contracted directly with Zagster.

Mobility data showed that the bike share was being used primarily for recreational purposes along trails, but not in the city’s economic centers or on the DSU campus for point-to-point transit.  A massive 87% of trips started and ended at the same station. Overall usage of the bike share was 360 rides per month. While the bike share was a success in giving residents and tourists access to recreation and green spaces, it simply wasn’t a comprehensive enough solution to address the transportation challenges of a rapidly-growing metropolitan area.

Solution 2.0

The response [of residents] has been phenomenal. These alternative modes of transportation provide great ways to get around the city as well as having the potential to increase our community’s overall level of health and wellness.
— Jon Pike, St. George Mayor

Zagster initiated conversations with the city about modifying the program to achieve the 4 defined goals. When the possibility of launching e-scooters was raised, the city expressed concerns about a lack of city resources to manage multiple vendors and modes of micro-mobility, the possibility of having bikes and scooters strewn around the city, and uncertainty about the impact scooters might have on the existing bike share.

Balancing these concerns with opportunities, St. George asked Zagster to introduce scooters, which we did in March, 2019. Here’s how we built a multi-modal solution:

  1. We leveraged our aggregated data from the bike share, and what we knew about mobility patterns in St. George, to advance the city’s goals for A-to-B transit. The scooter fleet size, staging locations, and more were designed based on mobility data.

  2. We were (and are) e-mobility vehicle agnostic. With our “independent advisor” mindset, we recommended an e-mobility provider (Spin) to the City who was best positioned to meet its defined goals for A-to-B transit.

  3. We scaled up our existing operational infrastructure to manage and optimize the increased fleet size. We selected and configured a warehouse that enabled us to efficiently, and centrally, service both vehicle types. We hired more local people to enhance our on-the-ground operations, then trained them on Zagster’s tools and processes.

  4. We began the ongoing process of educating the community about the multi-modal program. Zagster builds solutions with our community partners, sharing program benefits and communicating expectations for responsible vehicle use.

  5. We started with 100 scooters, then scaled up to 400 scooters to meet demand.  We also provided integrated reporting on bike and scooter data to the City to facilitate ongoing collaboration.

Results

Zagster’s operations team

Zagster’s operations team

The usage of scooters was massive in the first month after launch, generating 20,074 rides. Equally important, more than 3 out of 4 scooter rides (76%) started at one location and ended at another. We re-balanced scooters to optimize use (and eliminate any potential clutter) so that they were in places where riders most needed them, when they most needed them. Data showed that most riders used scooters for commuting to work or to the DSU campus. In that first month, the scooter program effectively eliminated an estimated 6,825 automobile trips (based on a 2018 survey by the Portland Bureau of Transportation that showed that one third/ 34% of scooter rides replaced would-be car trips), a huge win for the City’s goal of reducing traffic congestion and car parking, while enhancing quality-of-life.

What impact did scooters have on the bike share? They actually boosted bike share usage, more than doubling the average monthly ridership during that first “multi-modal” month, the highest monthly bike usage in program history.  Each mode was serving different use cases.

The City’s Response

By adding scooters, St. George gained a comprehensive multi-modal solution that addressed the city’s defined “smart growth” goals. St. George Mayor Jon Pike was thrilled: "The response [of residents] has been phenomenal. These alternative modes of transportation provide great ways to get around the city as well as having the potential to increase our community's overall level of health and wellness."  

Re-charging scooters

Re-charging scooters

Marc Mortensen, director of support services for the City of St. George, said “the vast majority” of scooter rides were DSU students riding to and from their housing complexes, “which is exactly why we implemented the [scooter] program in the first place: to help Dixie State reduce the need for parking on campus.” DSU student Dallas Clifford told the local newspaper, “it’s a lot easier to get around campus [on a scooter], especially with it being uphill, it’s a lot easier to get back and forth from my apartment to class.”

Key Takeaways from St. George

  1. Multiple modes of micro-mobility serve different use cases and advance different community interests. One vehicle doesn’t necessarily fit all users/needs/communities.

  2. Having a single operator for all modes of micro-mobility promotes better collaboration in designing a comprehensive, complementary multi-modal solution.

  3. Zagster serves communities as an independent advisor and operator who builds customized micro-mobility solutions to meet community goals.

Want to learn more about how Zagster collaborates with communities to custom-design micro-mobility solutions? You can start the conversation here.