Automotive Blogs

COVID-19: Miami's Mobility Muddle

by Roger Lanctot | Jul 01, 2020

We hear it every day from so-called transportation experts. The general public is going to be too terrified to ride public transportation after COVID-19. Guess again. The need for public transportation has not departed with the arrival of the pandemic and we are all going to have to cope with that.

Miami transit officials and bus drivers were sufficiently freaked out early on in the struggle with the pandemic that they began subsidizing Uber and Lyft rides to reduce ridership on overburdened city buses. Yeah, you heard that right, the transit agency in Miami deliberately sought to shift riders from one potentially unsafe operating environment (lack of social distancing and masking) to another.

At the same time, the transit gurus in Miami-Dade shut down scooter operators - just one of 33 U.S. cities that chose to do so. Scooters? Why shut down scooters, but allow Uber and Lyft to roam free? I can't think of a more ill-timed, ill-conceived policy.

By now, it's pretty clear to most observers that scooters are probably one of the safest ways to get around requiring, as they do, open-air operation, zero interaction with a driver in close proximity, and adequate social distancing. The scooter ban in place in Miami - and in multiple other U.S. cities - is one of the more visible manifestations of the fractured COVID-19 public policy in the U.S.

In the absence of a Federal-led effort to mitigate the negative impacts of the coronavirus the 50 U.S. states have been left to their own devices and policy choices. This has devolved into inter-state travel bans now ramping up across the country. It has also led to intra-state squabbles as cities and towns have been forced to pursue their own local policy strategies - at least where those policy preferences have not been overridden by state authorities.

The latest gambit in Miami is the requirement that masks be worn in public. Given the patchwork approach to pandemic countermeasures to date expectations regarding compliance are not optimistic.

Florida's fractured regulatory environment is but one example plucked from a landscape filled with fragmented efforts to flatten the curve and defeat the coronavirus. But in the interest of improving outcomes, facilitating safe social mobility, and preventing unnecessary colateral damage to fledgling mobility operators, Miami-Dade should restore access to and availability of micromobility options in the form of mopeds and scooters. If Uber and Lyft can ride unimpeded and, in fact, subsidized, there is no reason for the Birds of the world to be kicked to the curb.

Previous Post: COVID-19: Through the Rearview Mirror | Next Post: TFL: Regulations Gone Wrong

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