Pilot program for e-scooters rolls out in downtown Phoenix

Sep 16, 2019, 2:30 PM

(Twitter Photo/@katie_stevens_e)...

(Twitter Photo/@katie_stevens_e)

(Twitter Photo/@katie_stevens_e)

PHOENIX – Electric scooters are now rolling across downtown Phoenix, but there are strict limits on the agile little transportation devices.

The City Council approved a six-month pilot program for e-scooter rentals within a designated boundary last month, looking to provide an option for “first-mile, last-mile connections,” Ashley Patton, spokeswoman for the city’s Street Transportation department, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

“We’ve seen scooters and other forms of micromobility spring up across the country and we had some community members … reach out to the Street Transportation department,” Patton said.

“So we worked with City Council to get a program approved, and then we developed and launched the program today.”

Three companies – Lime, Bird and Spin – received permits to operate 300 e-scooters each, primarily in the area bordered by McDowell Road to the north, Buckeye Road to the south, Seventh Avenue to the west and Seventh Street to the east.

“We found the need seems to be within the downtown core, but it is a pilot program, so we’ll be evaluating if these boundaries are too big, too little, if it needs to be expanded and if it, indeed, works for the downtown area,” Patton said.

The devices, which have a top speed of 15 mph, can be located and accessed through the companies’ mobile apps, with prices generally around $1 to unlock a scooter plus about 30 cents per minute, Patton said.

Riders must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license, and helmet usage is encouraged. The scooters should be operated only on streets, not sidewalks, and in bike lanes where available.

The city’s website contains details about the program as well as a boundary map, including “no-ride” zones where the devices are programmed to slow from a scoot to a crawl.

“In those areas, the scooters are geofenced, and we’re using GPS technology to minimize the speed,” Patton said. “So once you go into one of those no-ride zones, the scooter goes to less than 4 miles per hour and it will alert you that you are in a no-ride zone.

“So an example of that would be the ASU downtown campus.”

The program also includes more than 400 specified parking areas, so rides can’t start or end just anywhere.

“One unique quality about the city of Phoenix’s program is that we are requiring both the drop-off and pickup of scooters in one of our designated parking locations,” Patton said.

Patton said the program will be evaluated with the City Council after three months and again at the end of the pilot period, looking at things such as demand, usage and safety issues.

“And we’ll also be taking in community feedback,” she said. “So we want to hear from the residents, we want to hear from the business to see if this is, indeed, enhancing connectivity downtown.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Amy Phol contributed to this report.

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Pilot program for e-scooters rolls out in downtown Phoenix