Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Scooters Could Return to Milwaukee

Could return in 2021. In 2019, 350,130 rides taken, with 67 crashes.

By - Sep 30th, 2020 04:34 pm
Lime scooters on Broadway in the Historic Third Ward. File photo by Dave Reid.

Lime scooters on Broadway in the Historic Third Ward. File photo by Dave Reid.

Dockless electric scooters were the hot topic at Milwaukee City Hall for much of 2019. A pilot program was created as a one-year trial to see how the scooters would fare on city streets.

Ultimately 350,130 rides were taken, with the three participating companies reporting 67 crashes and 141 citizen complaints being submitted to the city. A Department of Public Works (DPW) survey at the end of 2019 generated 7,658 responses.

The 131-day pilot ended at the end of the year. Then a global pandemic took hold just as the city was expected to consider permanent regulations or another pilot program.

The Public Works Committee revisited its 2019 hot topic for the first time in 2020 on Wednesday morning.

“We had created this report and a full recommendation earlier in the year, but obviously the pandemic put everything on hold,” said DPW transportation planner Kate Riordan.

“In 2021 we would like to bring scooters back,” she said. But instead of throwing open the doors to a standardized license program, DPW is recommending another pilot.

“We would like to see how scooters are used throughout the year,” said Riordan.

She said a series of key changes should be made to the pilot’s design including revising the fee structure and reconfiguring the placement zones.

Under the 2019 rules, authorized companies were able to place up to 250 dockless scooters each in an area east of Interstate 43 running from W. Oklahoma Ave. north to the city limits near W. Capitol Dr. that includes Downtown, the East Side, Brewers Hill, BronzevilleHarambeeBay View and a special cutout west to N. 22nd St. for Marquette University. The companies were able to place 100 additional scooters, bringing each company’s total fleet size to 350, in two additional zones (50 scooters per zone) that encompassed the rest of the city and were roughly divided by Interstate 94.

Riordan said DPW’s 2021 plan calls for reconfiguring the zones to try to spur more ridership across the rest of the city. It would also allow for more scooters outside of the greater downtown area. The 2019 pilot allowed a maximum of 1,000 scooters per company if certain performance metrics related to utilization were met.

“In terms of ridership, I think we were all surprised just how quickly people in Milwaukee took to scooters,” said multi-modal planning manager Michael Amsden. But a map of trips shows the vast majority were within Downtown, the Historic Third Ward, Lower East Side and lakefront.

Data provided by the scooter companies shows 2,762 rides per day were taken, an average of 3.6 rides per vehicle per day. But usage varied substantially by month, with 7.04 rides per scooter per day in July and 1.04 in November. Ridership was highest in the 6:00 p.m. hour. Unlike other transit modes, there was no morning rush hour.

The scooters were not uniformly loved. “Sidewalk riding tended to be the biggest complaint. That was a theme throughout the pilot,” said Riordan. DPW conducted 32 one-hour surveys at 18 locations that found just under 83 percent compliance with on-street riding requirements.

During the pilot DPW received 141 negative complaints, two-thirds of which dealt with sidewalk riding. The Mayor’s Office received 243 comments, 42 percent of which were negative. DPW reports that 52 percent of its comments were received and forwarded by Alderman Robert Bauman‘s office.

Of the 7,658 people that took DPW’s survey, 57% reported never having taken a scooter ride. Of those that took a trip on a scooter, 44% of survey respondents reported their last trip replaced a personal vehicle or rideshare (Uber/Lyft) trip. Forty percent reported it replaced a trip that would have otherwise been completed by walking. Just over seven percent reported it replacing a bus or streetcar trip.

“We really see this as an opportunity to increase transportation options,” said Amsden.

Of those that never rode a scooter but responded to the survey, 64 percent wanted to see scooters continue to be permitted. Those that took two or more trips had a 96 percent endorsement rate for bringing the vehicles back.

Operators reported 67 crashes, including 22 with no injuries. The Milwaukee Police Department reported six. The Milwaukee Fire Department reported responding to 12 incidents involving scooters, but lacked specific details.

Alderman Mark Borkowski asked if the streetcar tracks caused an issue. “I do not have have any specific reports of scooter and streetcar track issues,” said Riordan.

As part of a 2021 pilot, Riordan said the city would reconfigure its fee structure. The 2019 model called for a $50 per scooter deployment fee and then no per-ride fee. The 2021 model would move towards per-ride fees for each company. “Most cities are moving to per-trip fees and this really incentivizes the scooter operators to increase their trips,” she said. The city collected $68,400 in 2019.

Companies imposed a variety of per-minute fees that are complicated to quickly compare. Urban Milwaukee performed an analysis of the different options last August.

The city also intends to require more educational events from providers and would include fleet-size bonuses for those that participate.

Other recommendations include painting parking zones in high-traffic areas, better detailing requirements for on-scooter safety notices and establishing a 24-hour idle time policy that would require removal of unused scooters.

Representatives of Lime, Spin and Bird, the three companies that participated in the 2019 pilot, were present at the virtual meeting, but were not allowed to speak. Bauman, the committee chair, did not ask any questions and cut the meeting short to get to a meeting with the mayor.

The Common Council would be required to adopt any future pilot program or licensing program.

A copy of the DPW presentation and report can be found on Urban Milwaukee.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Related Legislation: File 200646

Categories: Transportation

One thought on “City Hall: Scooters Could Return to Milwaukee”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    Scooters are just another element in the transportation grid. According to the data, it appears they are a “last mile” alternative that works for a particular demographic. As such, I think they should be encouraged and monitored.
    My only complaint with scooters is the one, and only time the companies distribution crew put the scooter in the exact spot my bus uses for loading. I asked the bus driver to report the problem. Full disclosure, I’ an older person who couldn’t use a scooter if I wanted to and still approve of their use.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us