Superpedestrian was spun out of MIT’s Senseable City Lab in 2013. The company spent eight years designing and building the technology that would power its sustainable, efficient, and safe scooters, which were rolled out in 2020. Superpedestrian now operates scooters in nine countries and more than 60 cities—including Hartford, CT. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Zach Williams, Director of Policy and Government Partnerships at Superpedestrian to learn about scootering in our capital city.
NAN PRICE: How and why did Superpedestrian come to Hartford?
ZACH WILLIAMS: We launched the program in Hartford in April 2021. Broadly, it’s been an overwhelming success and has continued to flourish. There has been a lot of buy-in from city officials, city staff, Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) staff, city elects, and community members.
NAN: Tell us more about what’s been successful here in Hartford.
ZACH: We launched the program with a small service area. We intentionally had a fleet cap of 100 scooters and focused on the downtown and a handful of blocks surrounding that area. We stayed in that zone for about four weeks.
The goal was to give the city a chance to see and experience the scooters without necessarily going into all the neighborhoods at once. We also wanted to give our operations team time to get a feel for Hartford-area traffic patterns.
Around mid-May we started scaling up, adding scooters to the fleet, and expanding access to the rest of the city. By midsummer 2021, the demand for the scooters was so high that we added an additional 200 scooters to the fleet, bringing us up to 500 scooters across the city of Hartford. And that remains our fleet cap to this day.
We see high rates of ridership in Hartford. It’s among the strongest rates of ridership of all of our U.S. markets.
Also, we’ve leaned into affordability and accessibility in Hartford. We have an equity program called the LINK-Up program. It’s for anyone who receives typical public subsidy programming, like Husky Health, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). That programming offers 70% off of the fare for a scooter ride.
In Hartford, more than 500 people signed up for the LINK-Up program. Those riders are riding three to five times a week whereas a typical rider uses the scooters once or twice a month.
We worked closely with the city to continue service throughout the winter, which we knew was going to be a little challenging with the snowstorms. An interesting statistic that came out of that is that our LINK-Up riders share of the total trips per week during the wintertime shot up above 30%. Those equity riders were doing a lot of riding during the wintertime, which shows that scooters are providing a valuable service by supplementing the public transit system for those who need it.
NAN: The fact that the scooters were introduced in the midst of the pandemic is fascinating. Was that an intentional push to get people out and about?
ZACH: The scooters weren’t necessarily launched because of the pandemic, but I do think the timing supported some of the early explosion. Personal, outside, micro transit in the face of this pandemic had a new niche audience. For example, maybe someone who was used to relying on public transit didn’t feel as safe utilizing it in those early days. So, a supplemental option became really important. We saw heavy ridership in April, May, and June, especially in Hartford.
At this point, most of our trips are getting from point A to point B. But of course, Hartford has plenty of conferences, entertainment, and events. So, people are coming downtown and using the scooters for those purposes as well.
NAN: What’s next?
ZACH: We’ve installed seven parking corrals for these scooters downtown. We plan to add about 15 more over the next couple months. They provide scooter riders with a physical spot in the streetscape to group scooters and keep them a little out of the way.
Looking ahead to 2023, we would love to expand this system regionally. CROG is our managing partner here and oversees the greater Hartford Region. We’ve had some preliminary conversations and hopefully we’ll be able to provide access to some of the neighboring communities in the years ahead.
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