Micromobility infrastructure in vertical villages

Micromobility infrastructure in vertical villages
Dr Janette Corcoran

Many vertical villages are investigating electric vehicle recharging options, but e-cars are not the only vehicles that need these facilities.

While the demand for electric vehicles (EV) has not grown as fast as initially predicted, it is believed that vehicle charging facilities will increasingly be valued by residents of vertical villages.

In recognition of this, our vertical villages are being encouraged to become “EV Ready”.

According to advice from agencies such as Energy Saver (NSW), this starts with a resident survey to gauge demand. Next comes an energy assessment, followed by a consideration of infrastructure and associated payment options.

To date, however, such assessments typically focus on the needs of one type of electric vehicle – e-cars.

But as residents of Melbourne well know, there are other types of e-vehicles – such as eScooters, eBikes and e-cargo bikes. Referred to as micromobility vehicles or personal mobility devices (PMDs), supporters claim several benefits for the rider. These include affordability (e.g., rental/purchase price and running costs, especially parking!), convenience (including satisfying the first- and last-mile transportation gaps), time saving (avoiding traffic snarls) and sustainability (i.e. producing low levels of pollution and/or as a car substitute). Note: mobility scooters and powerchairs are also micromobility vehicles but have a different value proposition.

As regards the benefits for our city, policy makers cite decreased stress on transportation networks, reduced traffic congestion, reduced carbon footprint and improved transport equity.

This now puts Melbourne’s current eScooter trial in a different light – for while some view eScooters as a recreational novelty (annoyance) for tourists, the real point of this trial is to test if these devices can be formally incorporated into Victoria’s transport mix. The questions to be answered are: Do they bring the promised benefits? If so, at what cost? And what needs to be changed to effectively integrate micromobility into our existing transport ecosystem?

Victoria is not alone in seeking to so incorporate micromobility vehicles.

In the UK, Baroness Vere stated that in 2023 the UK Department of Transport would legislate for micromobility, establishing a new class of vehicle – a “Personal Transporter”.

Meanwhile Paris (France) has begun a pilot project to install 150 dock, lock and charge points for micromobility vehicles across the “Paris Rive Gauche”. This project aims to demonstrate how universal charging infrastructure can accelerate micromobility use.

As regards Melbourne, our current schemes promote rental eScooters, meaning that riders do not have to store, recharge or maintain these vehicles.

However, the situation will change if/when significant numbers of commuters choose to purchase their own micromobility vehicle – and want to store, recharge and maintain it at their home.

This will be a particular issue for vertical villages, especially in terms of managing common property.

Indeed, if privately owned eScooters and eBikes become a formal part of Melbourne’s transport strategy, vertical villages may be required to offer supporting facilities.

For example, we may be asked (by residents and/or government) to provide:

  • Secure storage: questions here involve availability of space and whether the owners’ corporation will allow eScooters to be stored in apartments (consider the wear and tear on lifts and hallway carpets);
  • Recharging: issues here include existing access to power and how costs can be paid/recovered;
  • Support facilities: might your owners’ corporation provide facilities for minor repairs?

In addition to this, thought will need to be given to the authorisation process, as approvals for changes to common property are no easy matter.

Returning to the notion of being “EV Ready”, if micromobility vehicles do become officially integrated into our transport system (as is happening in other cities), then vertical villages will need to ensure we incorporate these new micromobility demands into both our EV infrastructure refits and our maintenance plans.

And we need to ensure that government EV support schemes include vertical villages as a priority for funding! •

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