PHOENIX – Phoenix residents and visitors could have more options in 2024 for micromobility, short-distance transportation with lightweight vehicles, electric and non-electric, that typically only transport one person at a time, such as electric scooters or electric bikes.
The city’s pilot program began in downtown Phoenix in September 2019 with various vehicle vendors; users logged more than 330,000 e-scooter rides. The program was further expanded to include neighborhoods south and east of downtown.
After it finalized an agreement with current vendors Lime and Spin in December 2022, the city replaced the pilot program at the beginning of 2023 with the Shared Micromobility Program. Officials are now gathering public comment to expand the current micromobility program beyond its current boundaries.
An online community survey from Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department is available through Nov. 15 for the public to comment on expanding the program’s geographic boundaries and increasing the vehicle inventory.
“We believe that there is a demand for e-scooters and e-bikes to be accessible beyond the existing program boundaries. Staff is evaluating and creating a plan for expansion on the micromobility program and is seeking public opinion for this,” said Shiraz Malul, a Phoenix micromobility planner, in an Oct. 23 program update.
Since the program officially began in January, the number of rides has increased overall from then through June, but decreased in the summer months due to heat, according to a Sept. 20 Transportation, Infrastructure and Planning Committee meeting.
The e-scooters, which are used more often than the e-bikes, are used just under once each day, Malul said.
“The program has been supporting transportation for residents and visitors during successful events like the Super Bowl, and day-to-day needs for residents in Phoenix,” Malul said.
Currently, people can use the e-scooters and e-bikes from 5 a.m. to midnight daily, but the vehicles are not operational from midnight to 5 a.m. to reduce users riding while impaired. Vehicles also shut off in no-ride zones, such as the Capitol mall area and city parks, and remain disabled until the rider leaves the no-ride zone.
Lime and Spin requested the approval of 24/7 service for riders, with the option of sobriety tests through their respective apps, Malul said.
Within the boundaries of the program, areas of the city that lack transportation and economic opportunity due to historical disinvestment are designated “equity zones,” where riders receive discounted rates when they begin their ride there.
Originally, Spin and Lime were required to place 30% of their available inventory in the equity zones, but because of lower ridership, they requested a reduction to 15% in a Sept. 20 Transportation, Infrastructure and Planning Committee meeting.
There are almost 160 parking areas designated for micromobility vehicles in the downtown core area; outside of this area, riders must lock the vehicle using the built-in lock to a bicycle rack or another vertical post.
Riding the micromobility vehicles on sidewalks is prohibited and riders are required to obey all traffic laws, according to the program’s rules for riders. But the Sept. 20 subcommittee meeting noted that Lime and Spin scooters are often left haphazardly around the city, blocking sidewalks and mobility ramps.
“I want to be very clear on the rules, because one of the things that is still happening is that scooters and bikes are being ridden on the sidewalk, so I want to make that very clear that we have a policy on that,” said Phoenix Councilmember Laura Pastor in the Sept. 20 subcommittee meeting.
“As a manager for an eco-friendly brewery, I do appreciate having options in the downtown area that are not cars that are electric options for people to get around on,” said Frank Gervasi, general manager of Arizona Wilderness Co., a brewery with a location in downtown Phoenix. “I do wish however, that they could be a bit more organized and corralled.”
Vendors struggle with staff retention and recruitment, negatively affecting how they address parking noncompliance—but the vendors have had overall improvements in parking since the start of the program.
Lime reports that since the Phoenix program began, over 300,000 riders have taken 325,000 trips on its micromobility vehicles, which has kept about 80,000 car trips off the road, and saved an estimated 28 metric tons of carbon emissions and more than 3,100 gallons of gas.
“This has easily been Lime’s best year in Phoenix in terms of ridership,” Lime spokesperson Jacob Tugendrajch said in an email. “Lime’s ridership has increased by more than 100% each month of this year.”
The two vendors, Lime and Spin, provide revenue to the city of 15 cents to 25 cents based on fees per trip; revenue for this year is anticipated to be over $50,500.
Based on data from the vendors, people outside the boundary want to use the program, but are not able to because of the boundary’s limits.
Phoenix’s Street Transportation Department does not recommend expanding the program boundary right now, but plans to explore expansion over the next six months, with the potential to expand the program boundary at the one-year mark in January 2024.
“Lime is thrilled with the success of the Phoenix micromobility program and we’re glad riders have been using Lime vehicles to get around, even in the heat. We will continue to work with our local partners and the city to improve parking and ensure streets are tidy even with the high ridership we’re seeing. We look forward to expanding this successful program,” said Tugendrajch in an email.
Vendors are considering removing e-bikes from the program as it evolves, due to low ridership compared to the e-scooters.
From Jan. 20 through June 30, the e-bikes in the program experienced an overall 0.29 trips per vehicle per day, while e-scooters in the program had an overall 0.85 trips per vehicle per day.
Now, at least 20% of the vendors’ inventories must be a mix of traditional bikes and e-bikes.
Councilmember Pastor expressed a desire to expand the program citywide and add more vendors. During the Sept. 20 meeting she asked to revisit the issue in December.