City of Phoenix to decide future of e-scooter pilot program in March

The program faced issues during its trial period

Four months into the downtown Phoenix e-scooter pilot program, only one of the initial three companies still has scooters in the area, but its future hangs in the balance of Phoenix City Council.

The program originally featured three scooter vendors: Lime, Bird and Spin. The vendors would each provide up to 300 scooters for use in downtown Phoenix. Users could ride the scooters within boundaries created by the city, and scooters were to be parked within designated areas at the end of each ride.

City council members will evaluate the program to decide the future of e-scooters in downtown Phoenix when the pilot ends on March 15. 

Four months into the program, Spin is currently the only vendor that remains an active participant. Bird withdrew from the program after one week and Lime announced in early January that it would pull its scooters from 12 of its more than 120 international markets, Phoenix included.

Lime responded to The State Press' request for an interview with an emailed statement about the company’s exit from Arizona.

“As part of our path to profitability, Lime has made the difficult decision to exit Arizona and focus our resources on markets that allow us to meet our ambitious goals for 2020," the statement said. 

Ashley Patton, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Street Transportation Department, said Lime’s exit from the pilot program required Spin to increase its scooter supply from 300 to 900.

“We still wanted to make sure that the six-month pilot evaluated the use of e-scooters in the downtown Phoenix area to see if it was a viable option,” Patton said. 

Designated parking areas in front of Taylor Place and ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus make scooters a common sight for students. Although both the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses are no-ride zones for e-scooters, they provide another way for students to travel off campus.

Darby Nichols, a freshman studying exercise and wellness, said she uses scooters to get from campus to other parts of town. Although the scooters help decrease transportation time, Nichols sees room for improvement.

“(The scooters) can get you places faster, but sometimes it doesn't let you park. And that's not faster, but it’s good if you’re feeling lazy and you don’t want to get an Uber or something,” Nichols said.

For other students, the presence of e-scooters in downtown Phoenix is largely inconsequential. Alyssa Sanders, a freshman majoring in medical studies, was not impressed with the technical issues she faced when she tried to use scooters. 

She said an absence of scooters in downtown Phoenix would not require any adjustment in her personal life. 

“I genuinely probably wouldn't notice," she said. "It would not affect me at all."

As the pilot’s end date draws closer, the transportation, infrastructure and innovation subcommittee of the Phoenix city council will make a recommendation to the full city council on whether to continue the program. 

The subcommittee recommendation and community feedback coupled with data on safety, incidents and ridership trends will factor into the city council’s final decision. 

“Community feedback and student feedback would be wonderful. We would love to hear from the users of the scooters, or the people who are not using the scooters, to hear how and why,” Patton said. 


Reach the reporter at gforslun@asu.edu and on Twitter @GretaForslund.

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