Scooters to the Rescue!

Text: RoadRUNNER Staff • Photography: John M. Flores

If you ask the scooter faithful, they'll tell you that their fun, hip, economical rides can go a long way toward making the world a better place by curing the social ills of traffic congestion and global warming. Now, there is some solid scientific evidence to back that contention.

Data from a new traffic model released this past spring demonstrates that the nation's largest city could significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a key factor in the global warming debate, and reduce fuel consumption while saving a great deal of time lost to congestion by simply incorporating more scooters into the commuting vehicle mix. The results of this study were in direct response to growing concerns about traffic congestion in New York City. In his December 2006 sustainability speech, Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed the city's growing congestion challenges and set a goal to reduce New York's emissions by 30 percent.

The traffic model, which examined a central section of midtown Manhattan, was developed by transportation engineering and planning firm Sam Schwartz PLLC using Synchro/Sim Traffic 6.0, an industry-standard tool deployed by transportation engineers. Through modeling, the simulation incorporated scooters into the traffic mix in 10 percent increments, examining the impact of moving from 100 percent cars (including small SUVs, vans, etc.), to 90 percent cars / 10 percent scooters, to 80 percent cars / 20 percent scooters, and so on. The results of the core simulation were extrapolated to encompass the entire central business district, stretching from 60th Street to the lower tip of Manhattan. By shifting the daytime vehicle mix to 80 percent cars / 20 percent scooters, the following would result annually:

  • A total decrease in delay of more than 4.6 million hours per year which translates to time savings of nearly 100 working hours per person
  • A reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 26,000 tons (52,000,000 pounds) per year
  • A decrease in fuel consumption by over 2.5 million gallons per year
  • A total savings for New York City of more than $ 122 million per year in fuel and labor productivity

The team at Sam Schwartz PLLC noted that the simulation was conservative in its estimation of the positive impact of scooters as it did not factor into the model that two scooters can occupy a single lane side-by-side when riding, as permitted by New York law. 'This is the first traffic model for New York City to assess the potential impact of shifting the traffic mix to a greater percentage of two-wheel vehicles like scooters,' said Sam Schwartz, President and CEO of Sam Schwartz PLLC and a former New York City Traffic Commissioner. 'With a population of over 8 million, and millions more commuting in each weekday, New York is one of the most heavily congested areas in the world. Given the current dialogue about traffic congestion and environmental impact, it is extremely timely to examine the positive implications of a change in the vehicle mix.'

'Throughout the world, scooters are recognized as a smart transportation alternative, and this traffic simulation underscores the tangible impact that two-wheel vehicles can have on a major urban area like New York City,' said Paolo Timoni, President and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas, which sponsored the modeling project. 'The impact of this kind of shift has already been seen in London, which instituted congestion tariffs for commuting cars. That policy led to a significant increase in vehicles like scooters being used for commuting. Research is now validating that even small behavioral changes, like using scooters for a portion of one's commuting, can benefit the economy and help address critical environmental issues like global warming.'