- Electric moped startup Revel will bring 400 vehicles to Washington, DC starting this weekend, building on the company's existing fleet of 1,000 mopeds in Brooklyn and Queens.
- The launch comes more than a week after the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) said it would allow a four-month moped-sharing pilot program. Under the pilot, companies can operate up to 400 vehicles for four months as long as they comply with current laws and submit monthly safety and operations reports.
- Revel's vehicles can travel up to 30 miles per hour and can accommodate two people. The vehicles come with two helmets and drivers must be 21 or older and pass a background check to use them.
Washington has positioned itself an innovative city, especially around micromobility. It has used pilot programs to launch dockless e-bikes and scooters and now permits seven companies with roughly 5,000 vehicles combined.
The mopeds fit into this mode of experimentation with new mobility solutions; in a statement, DDOT director Jeff Marootian said it was "another opportunity for us to reduce dependence on single occupancy vehicles and expand the sustainable transportation options we offer to residents and visitors."
It is possible other companies, like European startup Muving, will launch a similar pilot, although a DDOT spokesman said that Revel is the only company that has applied for a permit.
Since launching last year in Brooklyn, Revel expanded its fleet to 1,000 vehicles and widened its geographic scope to a 25-square-mile zone that includes neighborhoods in Queens. In an interview with Smart Cities Dive, CEO Frank Reig said the positive response in New York contributed to DDOT's interest in mopeds. "They have seen it work in other cities," he said, "and this department wants to be innovative." Launching in DC has not required any significant change, although some parking information (DC will allow mopeds to be parked at meters) is being prioritized in the app.
Although the vehicles carry safety risks, Revel says they are taking extra precautions. The safety screening, which involves a background check for traffic violations, weeds out about one in 12 potential users. The vehicles are also locked between midnight and 5 am.
In New York, Reig said, the average trip is 3.2 miles, indicating that the mopeds are replacing car trips rather than serving as a last mile option. The fact that the vehicles can be parked on streets and aren't designed for sidewalks also reduces the clutter problems that have plagued other micromobility options.
"Cities see this as a vehicle that fits the city of 2019," he said. "It bridges the gap between bikes and scooters and cars."