The fleet of electric scooters zipping through Minneapolis could more than triple this year as officials seek to establish them as a citywide transportation option.
The stand-up scooters, which are unlocked with a smartphone app and paid for by the ride, were first rolled out in the Twin Cities last summer. Under a new agreement presented Tuesday, Minneapolis’ fleet would grow from 600 scooters to a maximum of 2,000.
The City Council’s transportation and public works committee unanimously approved the agreement, which extends the pilot program through March 2020. The city could contract with up to four ride-share companies for the scooters.
Council Member Steve Fletcher said it makes sense to expand the fleet, given that he often had trouble finding one downtown last year. “We do need to get them to more parts of the city,” he said. “There’s a real utility that they could serve in a lot of different neighborhoods.”
At the same time, council members want to make sure that users are considerate of others, especially pedestrians on sidewalks.
“Last year’s rollout made it clear that riding scooters on sidewalks downtown has created an unsafe, unpredictable and dangerous situation for many, especially for those in wheelchairs, with canes or strollers,” Council Member Lisa Goodman wrote in an e-mail. “If we want to increase the number of scooters, we better be prepared to increase enforcement.”
The increased capacity was based on how much use the scooters got last year and the fleet sizes of other cities, said Josh Johnson, the city’s advanced mobility manager.
More than 225,500 trips were taken on the scooters between July 10 and Nov. 30, according to city data.
“Even with the increase proposed this year, we’re still relatively conservative,” Johnson said.
Almost 75,000 people rode the scooters in Minneapolis last year, according to the city.
While most of those rides were taken downtown and directly across the river, scooters went on 93 percent of streets and trails.
Under the new agreement, scooters would be more evenly distributed across the city.
Up to 40 percent would be placed downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods and at least 30 percent would be in northeast, north and south Minneapolis neighborhoods considered “areas of concentrated poverty” by the Metropolitan Council.
Companies would be required to offer discounts to low-income riders and accept alternate modes of payment. They would also have to pay the city a $100 fee per scooter, which would go toward enforcement and infrastructure improvements.
City officials also want the scooter companies to make a bigger push for safety.
During the pilot, there were 81 complaints about parking and riding made to 311, at least four crashes and nine “near-misses” involving scooters.
It’s uncertain when the scooters will be back on the streets.
The city has yet to accept any applications for this year, while the snow is still piled deep along sidewalks and streets.
Minneapolis, which contracted with Lime and Bird Rides Inc. last year, has been contacted by four other scooter-share services looking to expand up north: Lyft, Spin, Bolt and Gotcha.
The Public Works Department will seek applications once the licensing agreement is approved by the full council.
St. Paul is finalizing its own mobility ordinance and also expects its own fleet to grow, Public Works spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert said.
A representative for Lime, which also contracted with St. Paul, said the company is eager to return to the Twin Cities.
“From out perspective last fall, we had a really, really great experience,” said Nico Probst, who manages Lime’s operations in the Midwest. “I think it showed the city that there’s certainly a demand.”
Joe Tamburino, chairman of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, said neighborhood organizations should have been consulted on the increase. Though he said most people rode the scooters responsibly, others were “racing up and down the sidewalks.”
“You see it all the time downtown,” he said. “I don’t care where you place them, a large share is going to wind up downtown.”