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Electric scooters may make Phoenix debut later this year

A proposed pilot program would introduce the scooters to the city over a six month to year-long time period


"Dockless scooters may be making their way to downtown Phoenix." Illustration published February 6, 2019.

Dockless, electric scooters may soon make their debut in downtown Phoenix in a new pilot program approved by a subcommittee in January 2019.

The Aviation and Transportation subcommittee approved a pilot program that would introduce scooters from companies such as Bird and Lime into the city for a period of six months to a year. 

Even though Phoenix currently has a bike share program, it also has an ordinance banning electric scooters within city limits, so approval of this program would require changing the existing rules. 

The city council will hear about the program after it is reviewed by another subcommittee, councilwoman Debra Stark said. 

The change aims to accommodate a growing demand for the scooters in Phoenix following their popularity in other Valley cities such as Tempe and Scottsdale. 

Scooter vendors approached Phoenix Community Alliance, the group that brought the pilot idea to the Street Transportation Department, in an effort to enter the Phoenix transportation market as smoothly as possible.

“We focused on the downtown area because that's where scooters as an alternate mode of transportation could become increasingly important as more people are living, working and playing here,” Devney Preuss, president and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc. and interim executive director of PCA, said. 

In Phoenix, scooter operators can go up to 15 mph in the road or bike lanes and are prohibited from driving on sidewalks.

If the pilot program is approved, scooters would only deploy in downtown Phoenix between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street as well as Buckeye and McDowell roads.  

Customers may take the electric scooters out of the designated parameters so long as they bring it back at a station within the program boundaries. 

Operators who do not bring the scooters back may be hit with an $80 relocation fee per the regulations, but this is subject to change when the city council hears and finalizes the program. 

Additionally, the proposal asks vendors to pay $5,000 for a six month permit and charges a $500 application fee. 

Vendors will collect data from the program and send it to the city in real-time, Michael Cano, a traffic engineer with the Street Transportation Department said. The data will show riders’ habits, peak hours of use, safety concerns and travel trends.  

During the subcommittee meeting, Stark's top concern was safety. 

The pilot program's current proposed regulations require vendors to emphasize safety precautions, and the trial’s operators must be at least 18 years old to use the scooters. 

At the conclusion of the trial program, the city can decide if it wants to keep the scooters in the area.

“We want (the scooters) to be treated like a bicycle,” Stark said. “Of course, you've learned to share the lanes with a bicycle. Part of it is the educational component, which was really important to us, and that's why you get so much of the educational information on the app before you can even get on the scooter.”

Preuss and Cano said that if all goes well, the electric scooters will help mitigate the congestion of Phoenix traffic, by providing more transportation options and freeing up parking spaces in the city.

“In lieu of someone taking the vehicle out of a parking garage and then going to another parking garage, this can actually not only save the environment, but also traffic congestion and parking problems as well,” Cano said.

Stark said that the Phoenix City Council will hear and vote on the pilot program in the coming months.  

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