Small is Beautiful


Making micromobility work for citizens, cities, and service providers
By Zarif, Pankratz, & Kelman, Deloitte, Apr 16, 2019

“In his 1973 essay collection Small Is Beautiful, economist E.F. Schumacher challenged economic orthodoxy, positing that “[t]oday, we suffer from an almost universal idolatry of gigantism. It is therefore necessary to insist on the virtues of smallness—where this applies.”

Four and a half decades later, a fast-growing set of services are challenging “gigantism” in transportation—in the form of personal, often single-occupant cars—and championing the virtues of smallness. Electric scooters, docked and dockless shared bikes, and other vehicle types are shrinking the physical footprint needed to move people over relatively short distances.

Collectively dubbed micromobility, these services have clearly resonated with consumers, as evinced by their rapid adoption over just the last several months. They have the potential to better connect people with public transit, reduce reliance on private cars, and make the most of existing space by “right-sizing” the vehicle, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (although the picture is somewhat clouded by the need to use conventional vans or trucks to collect, charge, and reallocate e-scooters and e-bikes should be accounted for).

Micromobility presents a tremendous opportunity for cities and service providers, potentially helping to address some of the most vexing transportation challenges facing urban areas: congestion, emissions and air quality, uneven access to transit. Despite getting off to a sometimes-rocky start, it may behoove both city leaders and micromobility providers to work hand-in-hand to forge a way ahead that serves the public good, meets city goals, and enables the private sector to create viable business models.”