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A Quest of Transportation and Environmental Impacts of Shared Bikes and Other Potential Technologies

 

Who: Yi Wen, a first year PhD student submitted the project with assistance from Dr. Chris Cherry, Professor at Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Summary: Shared mobility technologies such as bike sharing have the potential to reduce environmental impacts of the transportation system. However, shared technologies do not guarantee the reduction of environmental impacts. The environmental impact is contingent on what trips are being replaced and the operations of such a system.

UT and the City of Knoxville have jointly introduced Pace Bike Share last March as one of the many goals to reduce environmental impacts of the transportation system. To fully understand the environmental impacts of the existing shared mobility services and any future shared mobility opportunities such as electric bicycle sharing, there is a need to collect information on what trips are being replaced by bike sharing.

Therefore, this project proposes to conduct a quick and low-cost survey among current Pace Bike Share users at UT and in Knoxville as starting point to understand the impacts of current and potential future shared mobility services regarding their use patterns. We will supplement that survey with trip-oriented data where available.

Why is this Needed: UT has shown commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by introducing a bike share system (e.g. Pace Bike Share) on campus. However, the environmental savings of any shared mobility systems highly depend on what trips are being replaced, which is not available and poorly understood at the moment.

By conducting a relatively quick and low-cost user survey of the existing system and extending that to the full sample of trips, UT, the City of Knoxville and the bike share operator (Pace Bike Share) will benefit from the better understanding of the use patterns of the system, and therefore adjusting the system to achieve better environmental performance.

These changes may include updating the locations of available shared bikes to replace more vehicle trips and encourage biking. This could pilot a “park and bike” parking lot to relieve peak hour parking demand, solving the first- and last mile for students to use the transit services, etc. The survey will also ask attitudinal questions regarding future shared mobility possibilities such as electric bike sharing and electric scooter sharing, which will help UT assess if such options can be considered in the future.

The outcome of the survey will benefit UT, the City of Knoxville, and Pace Bike Share to better address environmental impacts of the existing transportation system. By reviewing environmental lifecycle literature, they will estimate environmental sustainability outcomes of shared mobility technologies, focusing on micromobility (e.g. bikeshare).

Funding: These funds came out of the Student Design Research Fund. A breakdown of these funds is listed below:

Stipend (one year, half time) $22,000
Tuition $13,549
Health Insurance $2,034
Survey Materials $500
Total $38,000

Green Fee Notes: The $38,000 request was approved, after ensuring that the data gathered from this project is both different from what we already have, and will benefit UT.