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Through pilot program, St. Pete’s scooters are showing promise

Mark Parker

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With the 18-month pilot program ending in March, city council members heard successes and challenges for the city's Shared Scooter Program Thursday. Photo by Mark Parker.

With the 18-month pilot program drawing to a close and a University of South Florida study into usage details complete, members of the city council heard an extensive update on St. Petersburg’s Shared Scooter Program.

In September 2020, St. Petersburg entered into licensing agreement with Razor USA and VeoRide to provide e-scooters for the city’s residents and visitors. On Oct. 29, 2021, the public was introduced to a new way to cruise around downtown and explore its surrounding districts.

At Thursday’s Public Services & Infrastructure Committee meeting, Evan Mory, transportation & parking management director, led an overview and analysis of the scooter program. The licensing agreements for the pilot program end March 14, and council must soon decide whether to renew the contract for a three-year term.

“I’m pleased to be able to report that our pilot program has proven to have more successes than challenges,” said Mory.

Mory said the program’s success stems from not rushing the process, adopting thoughtful program requirements and selecting the right service partners.

In 15 months, St. Petersburg’s 975 scooters have completed over 370,000 rides for a total distance of almost 440,000 miles. Cheryl Stacks, transportation manager for the city, said there are over 100 parking corrals throughout downtown and the city’s most densely populated areas.

City council appropriated funding from scooter revenues for USF to evaluate the 18-month pilot, and Stacks explained the study’s key findings. Trip demand was highest on the weekend, and 41% of users said the scooters replaced trips they would otherwise take in vehicles.

“So, it saved a little bit of congestion and parking issues,” said Stacks.

Stacks relayed that many survey respondents with qualifying, self-reported incomes were unaware of discounts. She called those findings illuminating and said there is a need for better public communication and education on those income-based programs.

Stacks said learning from other cities’ mistakes with e-scooter programs benefited St. Pete, and the program’s leadership applied best practices tailored to the St. Pete community. Stacks said ridership remains high despite strict program requirements – such as the corral system. She said other cities in Florida are now using St. Pete’s corral system as a model for their programs.

Stacks called the corral system one of the “shining gems” of the scooter program and said it organizes parking and reduces the perception of clutter found in other areas with similar programs.

“It also helps us to ensure that we’re getting equitable access across the system …,” she said. “So, we’re able to make sure we’re getting scooters on 22nd Street South, for example.”

Stacks said 19% of parking is in the city’s “equity zones,” and the operators deploy 17-19% of the fleet in those areas.

Keeping the scooters in designated return spots also allows operators easier access when making repairs, and Stacks said the inventory loss is minimal. Out of 491 VeoRide scooters, Stacks said just nine were lost – the lowest rate of any market the company serves.

She said the city received just 35 See-Click-Fix reports regarding scooters over the last 12 months. “So, we feel that’s probably reasonably low. Given the ease with which people can report things via that mechanism.”

Mory said St. Pete collected about $300,000 from the program in its first 14 months, a number that could increase if the city council renews the program and employs more scooters.

He said a focus moving forward is promoting equity and access to the program so more low-income residents can use the scooters as an affordable and effective means of transportation. He will continue looking for opportunities to further expand the program into neighborhoods with lower incomes and less access to vehicles.

Mory said he also asked VeoRide to strengthen its discount program because it was less generous than its counterpart. He said the company came back with an option even better than expected.

Razor offers its scooters at half price for riders in the equity program. VeoRide offers qualified users 30 minutes of daily ride time for just $5 per month. “We do think that will be well received by the community,” said Mory.

Mory said St. Pete is one of the only markets in the country with a curfew on riding hours. He would like to continue the curfew. but proposed expanding the operating schedule. Instead of the current 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. time slot, users could rent the scooters from 5 a.m. until midnight under the new proposal. He added that data showed no increase in accidents during the later hours.

Councilmember Lisset Hanewicz said she remembers the concerns when the scooter program was first proposed, and congratulated the program’s leadership for addressing those issues. “That took a lot of work,” said Hanewicz. “You guys did that, and obviously, it shows in the results.”

Following feedback from the PSI Committee, on March 10 Mory and his team will present the entire city council with an update on the scooter program and renewal options.

 

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Karen J Douglas

    February 24, 2022at4:11 pm

    Great article, very informative and readable……would like to know what it costs for a whole day, but all the other information was well represented and made it clear that our program was well planned and well thought out.

  2. Avatar

    Mike

    February 26, 2022at12:04 pm

    Its great to see this program succeed. St pete is the perfect venue for this type of operation. People really seem to like them.

    They do need to drop the narrative that scooters are somehow reducing congestion, traffic or parking issues. Thats simply not a reflection of reality. If the program is succeeding and everyone is happy, theres no reason to lie about them reducing traffic, which they clearly do not.

  3. Avatar

    Hazeltine Hugh

    March 3, 2022at12:51 pm

    I would like to see a report from the emergency room data at Bayfront and St. Anthony’s Hospital of how many admissions they have had related to rental scooters.

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