TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It's a pilot program that's both delighted and frustrated Tucson residents since it rolled into town nearly six months ago.
On Tuesday, March 4, city leaders decided to extend the electric scooter pilot program.
“The intention of extending the program would be to better collect biometrics to see how we could expand the usage to other areas of our city,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero during the council study session. “I’m excited about this program and I want to continue studying it.”
The pilot program was set to expire March 12. In a 6-1 vote, council approved doubling the duration of the pilot.
“I continue to be 100 percent against this,” Council Member Steve Kozachik said during the meeting. “This is not about whether or not you support climate issues, I find that offensive to suggest."
Kozachik represents Ward 6 where nearly 80 percent of the e-scooter usage is. Over the past several months, he’s heard from businesses and homeowners, like Alban Rosen.
"We consider it corporate litter that's being allowed. When we walk out of our house, it's there, it's everywhere,” said Rosen, who lives in the Iron Horse neighborhood. “We have to live with it every day. [E-scooters] are supposedly being used by people who want transportation, but what we are seeing in Iron Horse is [they are] actually being used by people -- young people -- who are using it for recreation. They are also being used in the evenings to go to bars and then the machines are left in our driveways, in our parks, in our parking places, on our street corners. I’ve had near collisions with these things.”
"The ‘100 percent enforcement effort’ is being picked up by residents and businesses,” Kozachik said.
A spokesperson for the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association told us he is "incredibly disappointed” the pilot was extended. Executive Director Fred Ronstadt shared dozens of photos of scooters blocking sidewalks, left on the street and even left placed on top of a bus stop.
Not every downtown business is upset with the extension. Emily Yetman, the executive director of Living Streets Alliance, says she is excited to see where the program goes.
“We know that basically a third of trips people make are under a mile, so there is a really big opportunity to decrease congestion, to improve air quality if we can replace some of those trips with biking and walking or other modes of transportation that don’t use a lot of energy,” Yetman said. “Scooters seem like a good option.”
E-scooter users are also encouraged by the news.
“I completely support them. I think they are a really good way to get around for cheap, plus they are fun,” Cole Gardner said. “I think they should stay. I have used them instead of walking for the convenience, to get to class.”
The city manager’s office recommends pushing the companies to deploy scooters to other areas of the community.
About 37,000 people used e-scooters in Tucson during the first five months of the pilot. More than 167,000 Bird and Razor trips were taken by the beginning of February, with an average distance of 0.86 miles.
The memorandum recommends spending funds generated by program on things like infrastructure, including the construction of new bike lanes.
Rosen feels his voice, and the voices of many others, were ignored by the majority.
“Why [do we need to collect data]? The data that I heard in this session doesn’t convince me that these things are a substitute for cars or trucks. We are giving them data, we are saying ‘Please, it’s disrupting our environment’. It’s a private, for-profit company,” Rosen said. “I guess we don’t count, I don’t know.”
During the meeting, Romero said she the city would work to address concerns that were brought up during the pilot.
We reached out to Razor and Bird for comment and haven’t heard back yet.