After a four-month pilot program this summer, the electric dockless scooters are coming back for another test run.
The numbers are clear: A total of 821,615 trips show that the transit method was popular. But, they’re polarizing too. About 84 percent of riders believe scooter companies should operate in the city while 79 percent of non-riders are against the transit method. The survey on last year’s pilot included 12,000 respondents.
“Despite the strong opinions that can accompany e-scooter discussions, the city has taken a thoughtful approach to a sometimes controversial subject,” said Stefan Schaffer, City Strategist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a statement. “As Chicago wrestles with its response to traffic congestion, air pollution and climate change, the e-scooter pilot gave people a popular and low-cost option to ditch their cars, which should continue.”
During the summer pilot, there were a few problems. People rode them on The 606, which the Park District prohibited. Some companies’ didn’t have effective geofencing which left scooters stranded outside the operating zone or even on the lakefront. Plus, many riders cruised on sidewalks, that was also against the rules. Some residents felt that thousands of scooters were suddenly dropped and that there wasn’t enough awareness about safety.
Because of these challenges, the city has decided to run a second pilot focusing on these issues and test the benefits in other communities. There are also a few broader questions, like will they be allowed on lakefront? And, how will they fair if unleashed in the Loop?
The study also looked into the effectiveness of the transit method and came up inconclusive on a few important matters. One of the goals was to provide scooters to residents who didn’t have as much access to Divvy bikes or reliable public transit. Most of the rides ended on the east side of the pilot program, where there is abundant public transit. So, officials say that result shows scooters aren’t acting as supplemental transit.
It was also hard to say if riders were using public transit more (and ride-hailing services less) because of access to scooters. Only about 34 percent used scooters to go to or from public transit.
Scooter riders also started out with a bang, but as the pilot progressed there was a significant decrease in ridership. There were also lots of trips that were short and ended in the same place, which likely means many people were just trying it out for the first time.
Injuries were a major concern in other cities like Atlanta which saw a high number of fatalities, but in Chicago that wasn’t the case. Only 192 people reported injuries related to scooters, according to Chicago hospitals. The city noted that better data collection was needed to evaluate injury rates and safety.
There’s not much else we know, other than that scooters will be returning and possibly be tested in new communities. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.