NewarkGo Thrives Amid Pandemic Delays

Phillip Scott, who operates the NewarkGo program, sees great scooter demand in the city. The NewarkGo program consists of dockless electric scooters and bikes anybody can use. The electric scooter providers Bird and Veo partnered with the City of Newark to connect people all around the city. 

After many months of research and preparation, the NewarkGo program launched as a pilot on July 31st, 2021. The program, which was delayed by the pandemic, has been in the pilot phase for the past year. Bird, and Veo, provided 2,000 electric scooters and bikes to the city of Newark. Scott expresses his optimism for NewarkGo’s demand: 

“We are getting closer to being back to normal. So that’s part of why we extended the time period to the pilot, so we can gather more data. One of the things we can definitely say is that the use of the Newark go program has been expanding. It has been growing since the launch, and we anticipate that it’s going to continue to grow during the summer months as the weather gets warmer.” 

Scott received his civil engineering degree at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and graduated in 1997. Scott has been the city of Newark’s director of engineering since mayor Baraka took office in 2014.  

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes. 

Q: Does your experience at NJIT ever cross your mind today? 

A: You’d be surprised; I think about NJIT probably more than you could imagine; it was a great experience there. I lived on campus, so it gave me a good chance to get familiar with the city of Newark. And when I graduated, I regretted not getting a job that kept me in the city of Newark. I had always felt a connection and always looked for an opportunity to come back. 

Q: How has your experience in and outside NJIT prepared you for your current role as Director of Engineering? 

A: In my career, prior to coming to Newark to work for the city, I did a lot of engineering on development projects throughout the city. So, that was another thing that allowed me to get familiar with what was going on. And I always had a love and a passion for seeing the city grow, to make things better.  

So now, as a city engineer, I don’t just get to see a project that I was working on. I get to see every project that’s going on, every development project that goes on in the city; I [also] get a chance to see every development project or a project that goes on the [NJIT] campus. 

Q: Tell us about the process of implementing the program. 

A: We had been studying different biking and scooter-share programs throughout the country from different cities that were larger and similar in size to Newark. So, in doing that, we were able to try to put together the best program that could be beneficial to the constituents of our city. 

 We meet with them [Bird, and Veo] on a biweekly basis to go over the program, to talk about the different metrics with different data that we’re gathering and some of the challenges and issues or complaints or successes that are going on with this program.  

Q: What are your plans for the City of Newark to implement bike lanes? 

A: As the biking community is growing, we are looking for opportunities to grow our bike lanes. Over a number of years, we were able to get where we are now, but we’re looking to expand upon that. Obviously, before we can do that, there usually takes a study that has to happen. And then, we also have to put together a design, and in a lot of instances, we have to apply for a specific grant. That’s going to pay for the construction of the work. 

Q: What does the data reflect on the effectiveness of the NewarkGo program? 

A: We didn’t get started until August. So now that we’re already up and running, hopefully, people will be able to take advantage of it from the spring, summer, and the fall. The great thing about this program is that it reduces the number of automobiles on the road. 

And it is true. In fact, according to data from the City of Newark, the NewarkGo program has reduced personal vehicle traffic by 35%, avoiding 80,000 vehicles on the road. Not only does this program help people commute, but it also has a significant impact on reducing Newark’s overall carbon emissions. 

The system is already easily surpassing the previous peak of usage last fall, with the median trips per day hitting 1,500 in the [past] month and peaking at 2,400 trips one day last week (April 12, 2022), versus a median of roughly 1,000 trips per day since launch. 

Q: What is the importance of the NewarkGo program? 

A: A lot of times, when people may not have a car, a large percentage of Newark residents do not have cars. They rely on public transportation. So, with that, a lot of times the buses or the trains may not necessarily go where you really need them to go. And they find themselves having to walk a good distance. One of the main reasons for launching this program is because it gets our commuters. So, for the last mile, you can get off a bus, but you won’t have to walk a whole mile. You may be able to get off the bus and then get on one of these scooters and pull right up to the location where you’re going. 

One of the other things about this program is that it does get some more cars off the road. So, it definitely has a green and a sustainability aspect to what we’re trying to do. We are trying to make the city a little bit more environmentally conscious. We want to make sure that we are trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. 

Q: What is your vision for Newark’s future? 

A: We [Baraka’s administration] want to make Newark [a city] that people actually want to come to. We want to make it a place where people want to visit. Make it a place where people want to live. So now, the administration is making a great push to build housing in the downtown area. So, we can have a true 24-hour city. 

We have people walking the streets, entertainment, and nightlife. We have the Prudential Center, we have Newark Symphony Hall, but we need to do more to make this a place [one] that people want to be all the time, not just when they’re coming to events. So, for me personally, I like to help make this city a true destination. 

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Sebastian Lopez

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