Portland Bureau of Transportation and Transportation Research and Education Center held a seminar on Feb. 1 at Karl Miller Center on the successes and challenges of the e-scooter pilot program in Portland, which lasted 120 days from July 23–Nov. 20, 2018.
Speakers at the seminar included Briana Orr, E-Scooter pilot project manager at PBOT; John MacArthur, sustainable transportation program manager for TREC; and Jennifer Dill, director of TREC.
After the e-scooter pilot ended, PBOT received 4,532 public opinion poll responses from both residents and visitors and evaluated the program using trip data provided by companies, a user survey, the Multnomah County Health Department, a public opinion poll by DHM Research, three separate focus groups, reported injuries as well as community feedback and complaints.
Results showed 62 percent felt positive about e-scooters and 34 percent of respondents replaced driving and ride-hailing trips with e-scooter trips; 42 percent of riders were 25–34 years old, 64 percent were male and 79 percent were white. The results also showed low-income residents and people of color tend to use e-scooters more than bike shares.
PBOT found that costs and an aversion to entering credit card information as well as the availability of scooters were barriers to e-scooter usage. There was also low company performance in meeting the city’s equity goals, with a lack of scooters in less financially lucrative parts of town such as Northeast Portland.
The benefits which PBOT reported included expanding mobility options, enhancing transit connections, lessening environmental impact, lowering transportation cost for users and reducing congestion and parking. Other benefits include equity, new workforce opportunities and fun and freedom of movement.
Some issues the city has faced with e-scooters include safety, impacts on other modes of transportation, operational costs and environmental concerns.
Going forward, PBOT plans to work on sidewalk accessibility and pedestrian comfort, as lack of helmets, unsafe riding on sidewalks and improperly parked scooters made up the majority of complaints they received. They also hope to increase equitable access to e-scooters.
PBOT also announced it is working toward launching a second e-scooter pilot program this spring and is currently working on drafting the administrative rules and permit applications.
One seminar attendee asked whether scooter injuries went up with an increase in inclement weather this past fall, and Orr responded that there was in fact a decline in injuries over the pilot period.
Another inquired about lowering the minimum age of e-scooter riders from 18 to 16 years old. Orr said the statewide minimum age is set at 16 while the companies set the minimum age requirement at 18.
Another inquired about low-income plans. Orr responded that while the city required all e-scooter companies to have a low-income plan, there were no specific requirements for the cost for low-income riders.
E-scooters are part of a growing trend in shared micro-mobility, defined as any small, human or electric powered transportation solution such as bikes, e-bikes, scooters or any other small, lightweight vehicle that can be shared between multiple users.
The implementation of the program was part of Portland’s long-term goal of using other options besides single-occupancy cars, as 60 percent of Portlanders use a vehicle for transportation. Over the duration of the pilot program, Portlanders took 700,369 trips with an average of 5,885 trips per day and an average trip length between 1–1.5 miles.
The program allowed companies to operate anywhere within city limits with a city permit and have up to 2,043 scooters.