Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Marketplace about the downsizing of e-scooter company Lime. Lime is reportedly pulling out of 12 cities worldwide and laying off 14% of its workforce. Since their first appearance, Lime scooters have been prevalent in many major cities. However, high maintenance costs have prompted Lime and other e-scooter companies to find ways to improve profitability. Matute noted that the U.S. cities Lime is pulling out of share a common physical obstacle to a sweeping adoption of e-scooters. He noted they are all Sunbelt cities where cars are widely used for transportation. “That makes integrating bikes, scooters and other lower-speed mobility options very challenging,” he said.
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist about the future of e-scooters in Santa Monica. “Santa Monica has a relatively stable system … that can demonstrate to other parts of Southern California what might be possible,” Matute said. The city launched a pilot program of 3,250 dockless scooters in September 2018. Matute said its manageable level and investment in quality over quantity is key to its success, in comparison with Los Angeles’ pilot program of 36,000 e-scooters and e-bikes. “It would be hard for any group of people to regulate that many devices,” he said. Better roads and investment in bikeways are also key, he said. While Santa Monica’s new green bike lanes are a step in the right direction, Matute advocated for more bike lanes that are segregated from car lanes.
By Colleen Callahan
The two San Pedro Bay ports — Los Angeles and Long Beach — form the largest container port complex in North America. While an important economic engine for Southern California, port-related activity is one of the largest contributors to air pollution in a region that regularly violates air quality standards.
Concerned about the public health and climate impacts of drayage trucking — which moves cargo from the ports to train yards, warehouses and distribution centers — the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach set a goal to transition the fleet to 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035. A new report from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, however, finds that an accelerated transition starting in the 2020s could be both feasible and advantageous.
The UCLA researchers analyzed the significant challenges and opportunities of replacing diesel drayage trucks with zero-emission trucks, specifically battery electric trucks, beginning in the 2020s. One advantage of an earlier transition is a quicker reduction in tailpipe emissions, they found. Unlike current diesel trucks, zero-emission trucks do not directly emit any regulated pollutants and can be fueled by renewable energy sources like wind or solar.
However, there are barriers to adoption of battery electric zero-emission trucks by the drayage industry. The UCLA report finds that current constraints include nascent technology not yet proven in drayage operations; limited vehicle range; high capital costs for trucks and charging infrastructure; uncertainty about which entity would shoulder the upfront costs; and space and time constraints for vehicle charging.
“Despite these challenges, we conclude that there is significant potential for zero-emission trucks to be used in drayage service,” said James Di Filippo, the lead researcher on the UCLA study. “Operationally, the range of early-state battery electric trucks is suitable for most drayage needs at the ports.”
The technology is advancing quickly. One manufacturer already has a zero-emission battery electric truck on the market, while five other leading manufacturers plan to do so by 2021. New entrants into the battery electric truck market expect to bring longer ranges and lower costs.
“We made a surprising finding: When incorporating incentives and low-carbon fuel credits, the total cost of ownership for a battery electric truck is less than near-zero-emission natural gas trucks,” Di Filippo said. “Even more surprising is that battery electric trucks can even be less expensive than used diesel trucks. This supports our finding that, even in the short and medium term, there is opportunity to electrify a meaningful portion of the drayage fleet at the ports.”
The Clean Trucks Program, adopted by the two ports in 2007, successfully spurred the replacement of the oldest, dirtiest diesel trucks in the fleet with cleaner diesel and natural gas models. UCLA researchers expect another nearly complete turnover of the drayage fleet in the 2020s. This presents a tremendous opportunity to transition to zero-emission trucks.
As demonstrated by the 2007 program, the strongest lever in the ports’ policy toolbox is the ability to assess differentiated fees to trucks entering the ports based on compliance with emission standards. The ports’ new clean truck program is set to differentiate between near-zero-emission trucks and zero-emission trucks by 2035. However, additional incentives to switch to zero-emission trucks from the start of the program could support a transition to the cleanest trucks sooner, the researchers concluded.
A swift move to zero-emission trucks could avoid the expense and disruption of two sharp technology transitions — one to near-zero in the 2020s and then to zero-emission in the 2030s. Meanwhile, early adopters could take advantage of current generous state and regional incentives for zero-emission trucks that make battery electric trucks less expensive to own and operate than all alternatives.
The UCLA report analyzed other options that the ports could pursue, including investing in technology that allows electric trucks to specialize in routes that suit their range. It also recommends that the ports collaborate with stakeholders — such as utilities and air regulators — to coordinate a wraparound strategy that provides technical assistance to trucking companies and drivers.
Other recommendations target incentives adopted by utilities and air quality agencies, which the researchers said could be updated to meet evolving needs.
The report by the Luskin Center for Innovation, which unites UCLA scholars and civic leaders to solve environmental challenges, was made possible by two separate funding sources: a partnership grant from California’s Strategic Growth Council, and members of the Trade, Health and Environmental Impact Project (THE Impact Project).
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the emergence of electronic geofences that slow down or shut down e-scooters to enforce rules of the road. Cities across California are testing the technology, which erects invisible fences to enforce speed and parking restrictions and, in some places, create dead zones. The rules change from neighborhood to neighborhood and have caused confusion and frustration among riders whose rented e-scooters come to a halt. Cities and scooter companies negotiate the restrictions, but “these aren’t on the books,” Matute said. “Given that what the companies are asked to do changes week to week, it can be hard for an individual to keep up with what’s permitted and what each company’s restrictions are.”
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the Twin Cities’ love-hate relationship with electric scooters. Transportation experts say the scooters are just the beginning of a wave of shared “micro-mobility” devices. “As the scooter market gets saturated, we’ll see different devices with this business model,” Matute predicted. “Companies are working on new and niche products like electric tricycles and three-wheeled scooters. They will be more accessible and appealing to people who are over 30 and want more stability than a scooter.” He added that a two-passenger electric bike is also in the works, and Los Angeles riders are currently testing non-pedal e-bikes, a sort of bike-and-scooter hybrid that has a seat and a throttle.
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about a study attempting to tally the carbon footprint of electric scooters. The research measured several factors: the energy-intensive materials that go into making the vehicles; the driving required to collect, charge and redistribute them; and the shortened lifespan of scooters battered by use on urban streets or attacked by vandals. The study concluded that e-scooters aren’t as eco-friendly as they may seem. While traveling a mile by scooter is better than driving the same distance by car, it’s worse than biking, walking or taking a bus — the modes of transportation that scooters most often replace, the researchers from North Carolina State University found. “That actual trip somebody’s taking on the scooter — that’s pretty green,” Matute said. “What’s not green is everything you don’t see.”
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the Washington Post about the rancorous fight over sidewalk space in the age of electric scooters. Citing “Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space,” co-authored by Loukaitou-Sideris, the article noted that turf wars between “sidewalk-grabbers” have evolved since 2000 B.C. until the “scooter hell” of today. “But is it a hell made by scooters, or just made apparent by them?” the article’s author asks. “I see this conflict more as an outcome of bad decisions and bad design,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “Cities kept widening the streets and narrowing the sidewalks, and downgrading activities to accommodate only walking. … I don’t mean to say sometimes scooter drivers are not obnoxious. But I’d say it’s a less obnoxious use than cars.”
Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, commented in a story on the California Air Resources Board’s efforts to reduce daily driving, or vehicle miles traveled (VMT), as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the state. “As electricity becomes cleaner, the proportion of total statewide [greenhouse gas] emissions from transportation is increasing,” Matute said in a story that originated with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Cars have a long turn-over cycle, and our urban and regional design has an even longer time horizon for change.”