Wednesday, May 29, 2024

E-scooter rental season could start by mid-April in Ottawa

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The fifth and final year of an electric scooter rental pilot program may begin as early as mid-April in Ottawa.

A memo from Vivi Chi, the city’s interim general manager of planning, real estate and economic development, says the city’s fifth e-scooter season could be even longer than last year.

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The Ontario government kicked off a five-year e-scooter pilot in 2020, allowing municipalities to choose where and how e-scooters are used.

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Bird Canada and Neuron Mobility each operate a fleet of 450 scooters in the nation’s capital, which are available in the area surrounding the downtown core. Scooters are available for rent within the boundaries of St. Laurent Boulevard in the east, Rideau River/Carling Avenue in the south, Churchill Avenue in the west and the Ottawa River in the north.

Ottawa’s e-scooter usage map. SOURCE: City of Ottawa ott

Chi says the 2024 e-scooter season could start as early as April 15, a full month earlier than when it started in 2023, subject to weather and street-sweeping cleaning conditions. Operating hours will also be expanded, and scooters will be available each day from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following morning, Chi wrote.

“Given that e-scooters can facilitate transit trips, this expansion of operating hours will align with the city’s transit operating hours,” the memo reads.

The fleet may also be expanded to a maximum of 1,200 scooters, “if requested and justified by the service providers,” she said. The city is also cutting the 10-cent user fee this year.

Additionally, the city is exploring options for helmets to be available to all riders, though Chi noted Neuron already provides helmets with their scooters.

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E-scooter usage dropped significantly in 2022, and has yet to fully rebound, according to data released by the city in late 2023.

There was an 84-per-cent decrease in trips using e-scooters in 2022, all the way down to about 80,000 total trips that year — 410,000 fewer than the whole of the 2021 season. The city also found that the number of unique riders decreased by 74 per cent: 33,000 for the 2022 season compared to 127,000 in the previous year.

However, Chi’s memo says the 2023 e-scooter season was roughly 40 per cent longer in duration than the 2022 season, and had more than twice the trips. Ridership, too, is on the upswing.

From May 15 to Nov. 15 in 2023, approximately 50,000 unique riders took approximately 179,000 rides on e-scooters, she said, making for a daily average of 1,000 trips per day on a weekday.

The busiest month was July with approximately 1,200 daily trips during the week, and 1,800 daily trips on the weekend, with some weekends reaching 2,500 daily trips, the memo says.

The average trip length was 2.1 kilometres, and the average trip duration was just under 15 minutes. The most popular time to ride was in the evening, between 7 and 11 p.m.

The total distance covered was approximately 350,000 kilometrers, resulting in an estimated reduction of 9,000 to 12,000 kilograms of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions.

As for the future of the program, Chi said staff would report back to the city’s transportation committee and council, once the province advises if it will extend the pilot project, make the pilot permanent, or discontinue it altogether.

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