So-called micromobility has been a hit in Charlottesville, at least according to the latest numbers from the city’s shared scooter and e-bike provider.
It’s been roughly four years since Santa Monica, California-based Veo arrived in Charlottesville, placing hundreds of small, lightweight vehicles across the city and allowing residents to get where they need to go quickly and efficiently without the use of traffic-producing, carbon-emitting vehicles.
A recent Veo survey of users has found that 19% of Veo trips in Charlottesville have “directly offset car trips, meaning Veo’s service is removing thousands of car trips from Charlottesville streets every year,” according to Veo spokeswoman Paige Miller.
There were 236 Charlottesville Veo users that responded to the survey, which also found that 36% of riders do not own or have access to a car.
“Veo is helping increase access to sustainable transportation for people who may not have many options otherwise, other than transit,” Miller told The Daily Progress. “They’re able to add it to their travel portfolio.”
Of the Veo survey respondents, 39% said they had been able to decrease car use because of the service.
More than half of Veo’s users in Charlottesville are between 18 and 24 years old, and 65% are students.
Another survey was conducted nationally in all 50 localities where Veo operates. Respondents to that survey said the No. 1 action cities could take to increase rider safety is to install protected bike lanes.
“People feel safe when they’re riding in bike lanes,” Miller said.
In Charlottesville, Veo has a fleet of roughly 700 devices, including scooters and e-bikes, all of which are located within city limits.
“We’ve seen great ridership, and we’ve partnered really well with the city and the university to identify the specific needs of Charlottesville,” Joe Bott, a Veo partnerships manager, told The Daily Progress.
An overarching Veo goal, Bott said, is to reduce automobile dependence and to provide a way for people to get around the city quickly.
“I know that there’s not completely widespread public transit across Charlottesville, and there’s a lot of activities and the university,” Bott said. “Around 20% of trips that would have been taken in a car are able to be taken with micromobiity. That’s less cars on the road, less cars taking up parking spots and still increasing mobility across the region.”
“Whether you’re going to class or just down Main Street in the bike lanes,” he said, “I think it’s been a way to continue to improve Charlottesville’s overall transportation ecosystem. Micromobility fits in well with it.”
Charlottesville’s neighbor, Albemarle County, has also turned towards micromobility to decrease car use and connect residents to public transit. It recently launched MicroCAT, a shuttle service that essentially functions as a free ride-hailing app in select areas of Albemarle. People on Pantops and along the U.S. 29 corridor can use the service to get to the grocery, public transit stops, local shopping outlets and more.
“Flexible, on-demand services like MicroCAT can eliminate transit deserts, create first- and last-mile connections and transit hubs, and be the catalyst to get people out of their automobiles,” Garland Williams, director of Charlottesville Area Transit, said in October at the MicroCAT launch.
For Veo, the information from the survey allows it to better cater to Charlottesville’s needs.
“We’re just trying to continue to improve the program in each year it’s in existence,” Bott said.
Charlottesville first launched an app-powered scooter and e-bike pilot program back in 2018. The market soon hosted multiple micromobility providers, but not all survived.
During the pilot program, Veo competitor Bird left Charlottesville in 2019 and Lime left Charlottesville in 2020. In 2020, the University of Virginia also announced it would be ending UBike, its docked bicycle program that started in 2015.
Lime cited “regulation changes” in its departure. Those new regulations at the time included limits and requirements on the number of vehicles providers can operate, as set out by the city manager.