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Staff of the West Piedmont Planning District Commission and RIDE Solutions attended a Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) and Virginia Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (VAMPO) Training Conference in Charlottesville on Friday, June 14th, and one of the sessions pertained to the scooters that have become popular in many cities throughout the U.S.  The presentation involved a pilot program the City of Charlottesville has initiated which involves a contract between the City and Lime and Bird scooter companies for up to 200 scooters.

One interesting point conveyed via the presentation was that Lime and Bird have the ability to implement “No Go” and “Slow Go” zones at the city’s pedestrian mall and at UVA.  When a rider ventures into a “No Go” zone, their phone will send them a message that they are riding in an area in which scooter use is restricted.  They will also be unable to lock their scooter when they park in such a zone.  The “Slow Go” zone slows the scooter down.  Such features which are associated with these scooters are something which localities in our region may want to consider for areas in which scooters should be limited or excluded.

Certain statistics were put forth regarding the use of the scooters.  These included the fact that 17% of rides ended on street corners, 20% of rides ended on a commercial corridor, and 50% ended on the UVA campus.  While these statistics cannot be fully applied to other regions such as the West Piedmont Planning District, they can give a general sense of where the scooters were used.  Some other interesting statistics were that 8 am was the slowest time of the day for scooter usage, 5 p.m. was the busiest time of the day, and the average trip length was originally about 0.3-mile but later increased to about 0.6 – 0.7 mile.  According to a survey completed by riders in the city, most used the scooters to commute to or from classes or school (about 26%).  The second-largest category included riders using the scooters for fun/recreation (about 22%).  The third-and fourth largest use categories involved riders utilizing the scooters to commute to work, and then users traveling to and from social or restaurant trips.  Some other statistics articulated during the presentation were that 21% of riders operated the scooters on sidewalks, 15% wore headphones, and none of the respondents wore helmets.  Given the fact that Charlottesville is a college town, some of these statistics may not be applicable to our region; however, they do establish a general baseline from which rider behavior may be anticipated to some extent in cities in which the scooters are introduced.

Several conclusion were drawn from this pilot program with regard to opportunities and lessons learned.  One conclusion is that there should be additional outreach to UVA, riders, as well as community groups.  Another conclusion is that greater efforts should be made to reduce obstacles for low-income groups to utilize this transportation mode.  Third, the scooter fleet should be allocated more equitably throughout the community.  Lastly, technology and infrastructure should be embraced.  These recommendations could be valuable for communities in our region which may eventually be given scooter access.[1]

[1] Ness, Jason and Poncy, Amanda.  E-Scooter Pilots and Policy Questions.  2019 VAPDC/VAMPO Training Conference.  June 14, 2019.