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Chicago To Launch Second E-Scooter Pilot Program This Summer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city plans to roll out another scooter pilot program this summer, after last year's four-month test run didn't provide sufficient answers to determine if e-scooters are a viable long-term transit option for Chicago.

The Chicago Department of Transportation on Tuesday released an evaluation of last year's e-scooter pilot program, which found people took 821,615 trips on scooters between June and October. Scooters were used most frequently during the evening rush on weekdays and between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends.

However, the study also found ridership dropped off significantly over the course of the pilot program, with people taking have as many rides on scooters in the last week as during the first week.

"While the e-scooter program holds promise, it warrants additional review to determine how we hold vendors accountable, keep Chicagoans safe and improve citywide mobility," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. "While the initial pilot revealed mixed results, my team will continue to bring community members and all stakeholders to the table to identify improved guidelines and gauge if the scooter program is a viable long-term solution."

CDOT said data also showed nearly half of all e-scooter rentals started or ended near bus stops or train stations, but proved inconclusive about whether riders were using the scooters to replace a trip that otherwise would have been made on public transportation, whether they were using scooters to connect to mass transit, or neither.

"The very low percentage of survey respondents that said they rode CTA bus or rail more often indicates that availability of e-scooters did not increase public transit use," the city's report on the scooter program stated.

The city said demand was highest in the West Loop and along Milwaukee Avenue, where there already are multiple transportation options.

The program saw 10 companies supply thousands of e-scooters in a designated area west of downtown. Operating hours were set between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., with vendors required to remove scooters from the public way every night.

City of Chicago E-Scooter Program Pilot Area
(Credit: City of Chicago)


Companies were required to place at least 25% of their scooters in each of two priority areas within the pilot zone, but the city said only one company consistently met that goal in the north priority area, and none did in the south priority area.

While e-scooters appeared to be more readily available in the underserved communities in the two priority zones early in the day during the pilot program, by the evening rush, the vast majority of scooters ended up in the West Loop and Milwaukee Avenue corridors, making them much harder to find in the priority zones at that time.

Opinions about whether or not the city should establish a long-term scooter program were starkly divided. A survey found 86% of people who used scooters thought the program should continue, but only 21% of non-riders thought it should.

Other findings in the study included:

  • 192 scooter-related injuries reported at hospital emergency rooms during the four-month pilot program;
  • Scooters proved much more popular among white and wealthy populations, with 72 percent of riders identifying as white alone, and 58 percent identifying as having an income of $75,000 or more;
  • People haphazardly discarding scooters on sidewalks, and breaking the rules by riding on sidewalks instead of the street were the most serious problems reported by the companies;
  • Collecting all e-scooters within two hours of the end of the day proved a major challenge, with vendors often taking longer than that to collect scooters each day.

CDOT Commissioner Rosa Escareno said the second pilot program will seek to find solutions to the biggest challenges revealed by the initial test run.

"We look forward to a second pilot in 2020 that focuses on equity, parking solutions and safety," she said in a statement.

No dates have been set yet for the second scooter pilot program, but the city expects it to begin sometime this summer.

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