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Looking for a Scooter in Chicago? Launch the Transit App

Electric scooters and other forms of urban mobility in Chicago can be accessed via the Transit app, which officials say will allow users to find a close ride without having to toggle between multiple scooter apps.

A new transit app in Chicago allows users to locate the now-ubiquitous electric scooters that have become common on so many city streets.

Ten scooter companies are now operating in Chicago during a pilot which runs until Oct. 15, 2019. These scooters can be located — regardless of the carrier — in this new app. Riders simply tap on a scooter icon, which takes them to the site of that respective scooter operator. The advantage, developers say, is riders don’t need to toggle among multiple scooter apps to find the closest ride.

The app also includes trip-planning and booking abilities for Divvy, the city’s bike-share program, as well as the region’s public transit system and ride-hailing services. It was created by Transit, a company based in Montreal. 

“For cities to help people get around without their own cars, it has to be easy to find all of the options in one place,” said Stephen Miller, a communications spokesperson for Transit. “There's a lot of demand to make it easy to navigate cities, and we are glad Chicago is leading the charge, both through our partnership with Divvy and by ensuring that real-time scooter information is available to the public.”

The move underscores a point many transit advocates have stressed: the need for all of the multiple modes of transportation to be under one digital roof, where riders can easily access a cafeteria of options to mix and match as they move from one destination to another. A 2017 report by the Coalition for Urban Transitions, a collaboration of more than 40 research institutions, companies, intergovernmental organizations and others, found that ridership on public transit tends to increase when riders can easily use a combination of public and private modes of transportation to move about cities.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for Chicagoans and visitors to get around the city with a multimodal transportation system that is accessible, affordable, equitable and non-discriminatory,” said Sean Wiedel, assistant commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Making it easier to switch transportation modes leads to more commuters and others using those various modes, said Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), a transportation research and policy group based in Chicago.

And when those different modes are employed, expect “reduced use of single-occupancy vehicles,” said Feigon.

Several years ago, Chicago was the first large city to partner with Transit to include its bike-share programs in the app, said Wiedel. Today, Transit users in Chicago can access and pay for Divvy as well as ride-share options like Uber and Lyft through the app. Riders can also get real-time arrival and departure information related to the region’s buses and trains. Paying for those rides, however, must be conducted via the Ventra app, the central digital presence of a number of transportation operators in the area, including the Chicago Transit Authority, the suburban paratransit operation Pace, and Metra, the commuter railroad across the Chicago area. 

“There are a lot of challenges to getting there, but the Transit app is a great step toward making a multimodal network discoverable and available to the public,” said Feigon. “We are working to expand transit and shared mobility options along with safe infrastructure so that consumers can truly get out of their cars and still have safe and sound ways to get where they need to go.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.