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Evaluation of Shared Low-Speed Link to Public Transit Finds Demand Higher Among Day Users Than Commuters

Researchers from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis have published an evaluation of the results of the 16-month EasyConnect field test in the San Francisco Bay area. EasyConnect was launched in August 2005 to test and evaluate the potential for a shared-use low-speed mode vehicle service at bridging the “last mile” from a public transit station to the workplace. The program used electric bicycles, non-motorized bicycles, and Segway Human Transporters (HTs). (Earlier post.)

Although in concept the program was more focused on commuters, the results of the analysis found higher demand among day users (e.g., for lunch, errands, and business meetings) than among commuters (i.e., getting from the public transit station to work and back). The electric bicycle had the highest low-speed mode share (68%) relative to the conventional bicycle or the Segway HT for commute travel; for day use, however, the Segway had the highest share (52%).

The evaluation includes analysis of initial questionnaires and travel diaries to gain insight into participants’ socio-economic attributes and travel patterns; analysis of participant service use logs; and intercept surveys. Key attributes of the participants included:

  • Most participants were men aged 30 to 39 who reported relatively high general health levels and exercised frequently by walking, gym work-outs, and biking.

  • Participants’ transportation-related attitudes indicated they were concerned about air pollution from vehicle travel, willing to change their own travel behavior to improve air quality, and were dissatisfied with their current commute mode.

  • Participants primarily commuted by driving alone (67%) prior to joining the program; however, a number also sometimes commuted by bicycle or motorcycle (47%).

  • Workplace parking availability and cost did not appear to be a significant problem for the majority of participants.

  • Many participants made personal trips relatively frequently on weekdays, but fewer made business trips; most of the personal and business trips were made by a private vehicle with an average distance of 2.5 miles, which is within the range of the low-speed modes.

  • Most participants joined the program to try new transportation modes and avoid driving during lunch or to run errands.

  • Only six of the participants from one company planned to regularly use the program for commuting; the remaining participants worked very close to the Pleasant Hill BART station at the Contra Costa Centre and thus planned to use the program largely for Day Use (e.g., lunch, business meetings, errands).

For commute travel, participants’ use patterns showed:

  • The electric bicycle had the highest low-speed mode share (68%) relative to the bicycle (20%) and Segway HT (12%) modes.

  • Most participants used the program weekly; had a one-way commute trip distance of one-half to five miles; and would have commuted by car or bicycle if the EasyConnect low-speed modes were not available to them, indicating a likely net reduction in vehicle travel and increase in health benefits among participants.

  • The electric bicycle’s speed and range are greater than that of the bicycle and Segway HT and thus appear to be used more frequently for longer commute trips.

For Day Use travel, participants’ use patterns showed:

  • The Segway HT had the highest low-speed mode share (52%) relative to the electric bicycle (36%) and bicycle (12%) modes.

  • For shorter average distance Day Use trips, the Segway HTs had the highest use.

  • Lunch was the most frequent purpose of travel (42%), followed by personal business, then by work-related business (17%), and finally for exercise and fun (6%).

  • 70% used the program with some regularity (at least once a month and at most four days a week), and 30% did not (less than once a month).

  • 63% percent of these trips would have been made by car, 19% by walking, 17% would not have made the trip, and 1% would have made the trip by bicycle.

  • The mean trip distance for those trips that would have been made by car was 2.6 miles and by walking/biking was 1.4 miles, indicating a likely net reduction in vehicle travel among participants.

  • 12% of trips resulted in an increase in bicycle travel, and 36% resulted in an increase in electric bicycle travel, indicating an overall health benefit for participants.

A survey of pedestrians in the area found that about 70% said that common use of electric bikes or the Segway on pedestrian trails would not effect their use of the trail, while about 20% said they would stop using the trail or use it less.

Although the EasyConnect program was initially designed to bridge the barriers to access from public transit stations to employment locations, the results of the field test indicated higher participation demand by Day Users (e.g., lunch, business meetings, errands) rather than by commuters. This may have been a function of the institutional support available for the program in the area. The Contra Costa Centre, which is walking distance from the Pleasant Hill BART station, was able to provide significantly more support to the program relative to employers and business centers further away from the station.

The availability of the low-speed modes for Day Use at the Contra Costa Centre, however, may have allowed for a higher level of public transit use and carpool commuting. Even without accounting for such mode shifts, the evaluation results indicate net benefits for both commute and Day Use program participants from reduced vehicle travel and increased physical activity. In the future, shared-use low speed mode programs, like EasyConnect, should continue to examine pedestrian concerns about the use of these modes on trails and sidewalks.

—Rodier and Shaheen (2008)




As most urban designers/planners are aware - the psychology and sociology of the people using the built environment is crucial in deciding what modes of transportation will 'actually' be used. Piles of statistics are available on the 'whys' of commuter and local use. Concepts like climate, dress, risk, comfort, distance, etc. are often cited as more important reasons to not use bike, pedestrian-mode, exposed-slow-vehicle as main mode of traffic when compared to issues such as air quality, environmental concerns, physical activity, etc. (i.e. stats indicate many professionals do not want to show up at work sweaty, wind-blown, and disheveled -nor- do they want to shower, change at work, use office washroom for clothes-switch, etc). Parts of this mentality appears to only be slightly hinted at within this Report. For better or worse, until solutions/reports/proposals are brought forward that address these issues (mainly comfort and professional appearance) there will always be significant aversion to these modes of transport for regular use.
It is interesting to note that many surveys indicate 'aversion to crowds' as one large reason that many people avoid public transit.


I would have thought bikes were the obvious thing to use.
Just put in lots of parking places for them, possibly with a few rental ones and see what happens.

Segways are way overkill. Ebikes are a possibility, but pbikes should be enough, but sling a few into the mix and see what happens.

I would say that pbikes are a better option - both ebikes and pbikes are equally dangerous, but there are considerable health benefits from cycling which are not present if you let a battery do all the work.


pbikes are fine some places, but I doubt I would use one in San Francisco for commuting -- too many hills.


Segways are just stupid - I'll resist the urge to go on a 5 minute rant about them (cost, sidwalk congestion, lack of exercise, etc).

I'm a HUGE bicyle proponent, but getting most business people to hop on a bike faces a few big challenges - Jer mentioned most of them. No professional has the option of showing up to work or a meeting sweaty and wrinkled. Not to mention that it rains in most parts of the world.

Smart growth is the answer. Increased urban densities clustered around mass transit. Unfortunately, it takes good planning and several decades to fundamentally shift personal transport in each city. We better start pushing hard for smart growth... now. Much of the US developed around sprawl and freeways. This needs to reverse, and most people will actually like clustered growth better (many just don't realize it until they try it).

It was actually eluded to in the article, but I think they missed the point. Many of the participants worked right near a BART station and could walk the final distance to their offices. This is what needs to happen in our major cities.


You need to visit Denmark, or even just Portland Oregon.

I asked my friend (a lawyer) why he stopped commuting by bike: it wasn't the helmethair, rain nor hills that stopped him, it was the fear of all the other people on the road - in cars.


Diversity is the key - bikes work for some, feet for others, ebikes for others, scooters etc.

I would leave Segways out and say no more.

The main thing is to provide somewhere to park and lock bikes of whatever persuasion (at stations and places of work).

Electric Bike Guy

In the last year I have owned my electric bike, I have ridden 250 out of the 365 days (I live in Portland, Oregon). In that time I have not once feared car traffic (potholes and other obstacles are a different story).

As long as you make yourself as visible as possible (highly reflective riding gear, both rear and front lights) and ride safely:
- Use bike lanes
- Don't blow through red lights
- Ride on the sidewalk if you feel uncomfortable
- Avoiding roads that don't have bike lanes
- Use a bell while passing other riders
- Wear a helmet
- Use a rear view mirror, or head check often
- Use hand signals when turning (where safe)

There's nothing to fear from cars. In my riding I have found that as long as you respect the cars, the cars will respect you.


the more people commit to a 2-wheel lifestyle, the less other modes are needed...Boulder is becoming more and more appropriate for those who can leave their car behind and rely on their e-bike. Excersize is becoming more crucial for a healthy lifestyle, and jumping from transit to last mile options becomes a matter of health for all and conveince too many.


Actually Electric Bike Guy my invitation to visit Portland was an endorsement. I know it to be a bike friendly city and wish mine was also, however it ISN'T and that's why my friend quit biking to work. He's been clipped three times by cars and reduced to walking home six times by thieves.

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