Transport for West Midlands: Unlocking a new, greener mode of transport for the UK

PA Consulting detail their work supporting Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) in designing the UK's largest e-scooter trial
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By PA Consulting

09 Feb 2021

E-scooters have become an increasingly visible phenomenon in cities around the world as authorities seek to address issues of congestion and poor air quality. In 2019, riders took 136 million trips on shared micromobility vehicles in the US alone. With such an increase in uptake, it’s estimated that the global e-scooter market will grow to $30 Billion by 2025.

In May, driven by COVID-19 constraints and a need for socially distanced travel options, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced accelerated rental e-scooter trials across the UK, with West Midlands leading the way. Drawing on insight from other countries, we supported Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to design the UK’s largest e-scooter trial. With 400 vehicles at launch, the trial is providing people in the West Midlands with a new, greener and more sustainable travel option.

Key Successes: 

  • used insights from global pilots to shape the design of a trial with potential for up to 10,000 e-scooters – the biggest in the UK
  • informed the development of critical operational rules, ensuring TfWM could launch the trial in only four months
  • showcased emerging micromobility best practices to make choices clearer, and easier for senior stakeholders and decision-makers

Racing Against Time 

Four hundred e-scooters were launched on the streets of central Birmingham and Coventry in September, and up to 10,000 could join them over the next year. They’re part of a trial – the biggest of a series around the UK – investigating if e-scooters can offer the potential for convenient, clean and cost-effective travel.

COVID-19 has made the UK’s search for new forms of urban transport still more urgent. Even with one-metre social distancing, the pandemic has cut capacity on buses by at least 66 per cent. For keyworkers who must travel to work during national and regional lockdowns, micromobility vehicles are critical to ensuring they can work while not endangering those operating transit vehicles. Rather than encourage people to use cars to make short journeys, trials like TfWM’s aim to demonstrate that there is a sustainable, affordable alternative. They also aim to clarify how e-scooters can co-exist safely with other modes, as well as pedestrians.

A trial like the one in the West Midlands was originally planned for 2021, but the DfT accelerated trials for implementation as early as June 2020. And it picked TfWM to run one of the first of a series of trials around the UK.

Working with our partner Ride Report, a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform provider that works with cities to help make sense of their micromobility data, we shaped the trial, and its design, by contributing analysis and insights from 70 cities globally.

Gathering Global Insights

Ride Report’s platform ingests vehicle and trip data from shared mobility operators and provides cities like Austin, Texas and Auckland, New Zealand, with metrics in report, map, and graphical views. Using insights drawn from these cities and others with scooter programmes, our transport and delivery experts strategically advised on important parts of the West Midlands trial’s design. These included defining the areas where the trial operates (trial zones), approaches for TfWM to manage e-scooter parking, and rules and regulations on issues like scooter speed limits and geofencing.

The rest of this article is available to read here. 

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