Jeramey Jannene

The Return of Bird, Lime and Spin

Starting June 1, up to 3,000 scooters could be on city streets.

By - May 12th, 2021 02:45 pm
Lime scooters on Broadway in the Historic Third Ward. Photo by Dave Reid.

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

The scooters are coming.

The Department of Public Works confirmed Wednesday morning that operators Bird, Lime and Spin were all selected to deploy rentable scooters on the city’s streets in 2021.

“We are aiming to launch on June 1st,” said DPW associate transportation planner Kate Riordan to members of the Public Works Committee.

DPW issued a request for proposals following the Common Council’s April approval of a new pilot study for the electric, dockless scooters. Riders use smartphone applications to unlock the scooters.

“They all had really strong proposals,” said Riordan. The companies each participated in the prior 2019 pilot study.

The critical issue last time, at least in the eyes of the Common Council, was sidewalk riding.

“They all have really great plans for deterring sidewalk riding and providing adaptive scooters,” said Riordan. That includes detection technology and scooters with seats. Each will deploy at least 100 scooters with adaptive riding technology.

The study allows each company to deploy up to 1,000 scooters across the city, but with a limit of 100 scooters each in the downtown area.

The sidewalk riding concerns were greatest near Downtown, what the city calls Zone 1. That includes East TownWestownHistoric Third WardWalker’s Point (north of W. National Ave.) and Marquette University campus. The remainder of the city is divided into six zones.

The new study would have a consultant execute monitoring of specific intersections. If more than 10% of a company’s given scooters are found to be used on the sidewalks during those monitoring periods the company would be barred from offering rides in that zone (if it is Zone 1) or required to initiate remedial actions (for the outer zones).

“A major goal of this is to try to get more scooter usage into the neighborhoods,” said Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske in April. In addition to the Zone 1 deployment cap, the five zones bordering Downtown would each need to have a balanced number of scooters deployed.

Riordan said the city is close to selecting the consultant.

Fees would be imposed on the scooter companies to administer the pilot. A $25-per-scooter fee and $0.15-per-trip fee are to be remitted to the city by the operators. An additional $10 fee per scooter will be imposed to hire the sidewalk riding consultant.

The companies, which operate in dozens of other cities, use a special version of their smartphone applications to pay independent contractors to charge the scooters overnight and deploy them to targeted areas each morning.

The resulting cost to the user, charged on a per-minute basis, is often slightly more than a bus ride but less than a trip with Uber or Lyft.

Parking is required to be on sidewalks that are more than five feet wide. The companies, using geofencing technology, are required to assure that scooters are not parked in Lakeshore State Park, on the Milwaukee RiverWalk and in other designated areas.

State law, enacted in 2019, gives municipalities the authority to enact a regulatory framework for scooters to be used on their streets

A total of 350,130 rides were taken in 2019, with the three participating companies reporting 67 crashes and 141 citizen complaints submitted to the city. An average of 3.6 riders per vehicle per day were taken. A DPW survey conducted at the end of 2019 generated 7,658 responses.

After the December 31st study conclusion, the city could adopt a permanent licensing structure or implement yet another study in future years.

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

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