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E-Scooters work so well in St. Petersburg, the city wants to extend their hours

The change would let riders continue scooting until midnight.
Brian Stephens, left, and his wife, Susan Stephens, of Beaufort, S.C., work to get the app up and running as they prepare to rent scooters in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Under the city's pilot program, 975 authorized scooters gave 372,569 rides over 438,533 miles for a total of 5 million minutes of use.
Brian Stephens, left, and his wife, Susan Stephens, of Beaufort, S.C., work to get the app up and running as they prepare to rent scooters in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Under the city's pilot program, 975 authorized scooters gave 372,569 rides over 438,533 miles for a total of 5 million minutes of use. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 24|Updated Feb. 24

ST. PETERSBURG — The shared scooter pilot program had a lot of skeptics when it was launched in October 2020.

The council’s chairperson, Gina Driscoll, was a firm no. Council member Ed Montanari had a stack of scooter complaints. But 15 months later, St. Petersburg’s implementation of shared scooters — especially the “well-thought-out” parking corrals — is now a model for cities nationwide.

Between two operators — Veo’s standing scooters and Razor’s seated scooters — there are 975 authorized scooters. They gave 372,569 rides over 438,533 miles for a total of 5 million minutes of use. There is a high percentage of parking compliance, and of only eight crashes with injuries or possible injuries, two occurred during dark hours. Razor has only reported nine missing scooters.

“We’ve really set a new standard for scooters by being careful,” Driscoll said. “I started out as a firm no. I kept an open mind and finally came around.”

With the pilot program about to sunset, city officials have recommended renewing their agreements with Veo and Razor for three years while increasing scooters and extending operational hours. Veo, the more popular scooter, would pay the city $150,000 annually for the right to deploy up to 600 scooters per day, and Razor would pay $130,000 for up to 500 scooters per day. It would net an extra $28,000 for the city this year compared to the current contract.

The city also plans to put more parking corrals near bus stops and temporary corrals for city events. The City Council will vote on the contract extension March 10.

The contract language would allow the city to roll back hours or change the number of scooters, but transportation and parking management director Evan Mory doesn’t expect that to be necessary.

“Our pilot program has been proven to have more successes than challenges,” he said.

Mory and transportation manager Cheryl Stacks gave a presentation on the scooter program to the City Council’s Public Services and Infrastructure Committee. They shared results from a University of South Florida 12-month study of scooter operations.

USF found that scooters were most popular on weekends. Friday was the highest ridership day during the week, and Saturdays had the highest ridership on weekends. In a survey with 667 responses, 41 percent of users said they rode e-scooters to replace vehicle trips.

More than 60 percent of users reportedly rode the e-scooters for social/dining and entertainment purposes, and about 5 percent said they rode them to work. The most popular area for scooters was around the Edge district, which connects Grand Central, the Deuces and downtown.

Those who reported lower incomes said they did not know of the scooter share equity program, which provides discounts for users on government assistance. Under that program, Razor rides are half off, and Veo is beginning a program of $5 a month for 30 minutes of use per day.

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Council members asked several questions of St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Michael Kovacsev. He said police received several complaints in the later hours at first, but once a complaint number was posted publicly, complaints decreased.

Scooters are not allowed on sidewalks and users cannot double-up or ride with children. A violation of any of those rules could result in a warning, a monetary fee or a suspension of the rider’s account.

“The way we as a city organized this and put some tight restrictions on it has been very, very good,” Montanari said.

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