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Phoenix’s Electric Scooter Pilot Program 'Shows Promise'

man riding scooter
Christina Estes/KJZZ
A man rides a scooter in downtown Phoenix on Sept. 16, 2019.

After three months, Phoenix’s electric scooter pilot program is showing promise and challenges. The downtown program averages 4,435 trips per week. Based on data supplied by scooter companies, the average trip is one mile and takes seven minutes. 

Traffic Engineer Michael Cano, who manages the pilot program, said the technology can be tricky. Like other cities, Phoenix uses something called geofencing that works with a scooter’s GPS to stop or slow it down if it goes too fast or enters a no-ride zone.

“A scooter can actually go beyond it for a certain distance so where should we actually start these lines is more of the challenge,” he said.

Cano said there’s about a 30-foot range where some scooters go beyond or fall short of the boundaries. The city evaluates and adjusts the lines based on company feedback and tests. 

The program launchedwith three companies permitted to deploy scooters: Spin, Lime and Bird. Within the first week,  Lime and Bird pulled their scootersafter some were left outside designated parking areas. Lime scooters have returned and, along with Spin, continue to operate downtown, but Bird has not resumed operations. According to a city report, Bird “is now citing the program’s designated parking locations and nightly retrieval requirements for its decision to not redeploy scooters."

While working on rules for the pilot program, clutter was a top concern. Cano said regulations dictating that scooters be parked in designated areas is paying off.

“The feedback that we have from, for our example, our retrieval company, is it’s very clean compared to other cities that they work in, so there’s not piles of random scooters on sidewalks,” he said.

Scooters must be deployed from designated locations. If a company is notified that a scooter is not parked in a designated location, it has two hours to move it. If the company fails to remove the scooter during that time, the city or a retrieval company the city contracts with will pick it up and charge the company $80. At the end of three months, Phoenix reported a total of 242 violations.

E-scooters have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and cannot be used on sidewalks and must stay between  Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street from McDowell to Buckeye roads

Based on feedback and personal anecdotes, Cano said the program “shows promise that there is a market for electric scooters.” 

In three months, the City Council will evaluate the pilot program and decide whether to keep it, eliminate e-scooters or expand the program.

Pilot Program 3-Month Highlights

  • 4,435 trips per week
  • Average 7 minutes per trip
  • Average 1 mile per trip
  • 242 violations for improperly parked scooters
  • No collisions with motor vehicles reported
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.