Electric scooters have been missing from the transportation landscape this year. But they are just a City Council vote away from returning to Minneapolis streets.
The city’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee (POGO) is expected Thursday to approve up to six scooter vendors. The measure then would go to the City Council on June 26. If passed, “scooters would be deployed the first part of July,” said spokesman Casper Hill.
Minneapolis scored applications from six vendors in March using several criteria, including safety, equity and efforts to increase active transportation. City officials chose two of them: Bird and Lyft.
But due to challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, officials are revising their original plan of having only two vendors for the 2020 program, saying it’s “no longer appropriate,” according to a new licensing agreement proposal that POGO will discuss. The city had not executed license agreements with either Lyft or Bird, allowing for the change in plans.
Each vendor selected will have to deploy at least 200 scooters by July 1, with another 200 by Aug. 1; after that they can deploy up to their allotted total. A maximum of 2,500 scooters divided among selected vendors would be allowed on city streets under the new proposal.
There were more than 150,000 unique scooter users in 2019, according to city data, and scooters provided more than 1 million rides.
But it remains to be seen if scooters will remain popular as concerns over shared transportation due to COVID-19 continue. Nice Ride, the city’s bike-sharing program, has seen a noticeable downturn this year, said spokeswoman Kaitlyn Carl.
Through June 6, the popular bike-share program had tallied 43,471 rides. That includes rides taken by those on the front lines fighting the coronavirus pandemic who were given free memberships this year. Nice Ride users logged 59,629 trips during the first two months of the 2019 season.
Last week, ridership was down by about 6,000 compared with the same week last year. The program was temporarily shut down last week at the direction of the city, which may have contributed to part of the large drop-off, Carl said. The program since has reopened.
Lyft, which operates Nice Ride, is forging ahead. It debuted its new fleet of electric pedal-assisted bikes this month and hopes its scooters will follow, Carl said.
Hourcar on Lake Street
Hourcar, a Twin Cities carsharing program, is looking to reopen its Lake Street hub after its 2014 Honda Civic, parked in the Midtown Exchange ramp, was destroyed in a fire following the death of George Floyd, the black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police May 25.
CEO Paul Schroeder said Hourcar is talking with the ramp manager and property landlord to get the south Minneapolis hub reopened as soon as possible. Until then, users are being directed to the nearest Hourcar hub about a mile away at the Midtown YWCA.
Hourcar has been on Lake Street since 2012 and the Midtown hub has been “well used,” Schroeder said. It’s important to be there as the diverse and low-income neighborhood attempts to rebuild and heal, Schroeder said.
“This hub has a history for us, and we want to keep it,” he said.
Hourcar may increase its Lake Street presence. The company is looking to open additional hubs along the corridor, Schroeder said.
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