It appears electric scooters may get another test drive through Surprise — and their boundaries could go a little further south.
The Surprise City Council indicated May 19 that it was interested in another pilot program for Shared Active Transportation Vehicles after the first one was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only company to operate the vehicles in the city, The Collective We, LLC, didn’t get them into service until New Year’s Day. When Mayor Skip Hall declared a State of Emergency on March 19, the company collected all its scooters, meaning it only had a little more than two months to test them out.
“I don’t think the operator has been given much of a chance given the truncated time that we had for the first program,” District 4 Councilman Ken Remley said.
The Council originally approved the ordinance for the pilot program Oct. 1 to start Nov. 1 and run through April 28.
The city signed an temporary operating agreement with The Collective We, on Dec. 3 to deploy GOAT vehicles in the city.
Another agreement with Slidr was signed two weeks later, but that company never ended up deploying any SATVs in the city.
Code Enforcement inspectors didn’t report any violations for the 2-1/2 months they were in service.
“I did not hear of any general complaints coming through the office,” Assistant Planning Director Lloyd Abrams told the Council. “The scooters were parked correctly, upright and not in landscaped areas.”
Stephen Chang with community development said the only problems appear to be minor. On Jan. 2, one scooter was reported stolen to Surprise Police Department and its GPS was damaged.
Vandals broke kickstands on six other scooters in January. All of them were repaired.
“That was my biggest fear that these things would be all over the place, and it would be a nightmare,” Vice Mayor Chris Judd said.
During the initial pilot program, a total of 1,966 rides were taken during that time with an average duration of 13 minutes and average distance of 1.6 miles.
About 28 scooters were in service for January and February and 29 in March.
Hot spots show the areas that were predicted last fall: the hotels along Bullard Avenue to Surprise Stadium, Ottawa University Arizona along Tierra Buena Lane and restaurants such as In-N-Out Burger, Starbucks and Raising Cane’s.
The city took a sample of more than 600 responses about attitudes toward SATVs; however, most of them (83%) were submitted before any of them were operational in Surprise Jan. 1.
“I would like to see some sort of survey that happens after people have had some sort of experience,” Mr. Judd said.
One standout statistic in the survey, though, was nearly three-fourths of Surprise residents said vendors shouldn’t be permitted to operate in Surprise. Also, about the same percentage aid they wouldn’t use a SATV, although about a third of respondents said they already had ridden one in the city.
Other survey results include, residents appear nearly split on whether there should be designated parking and deployment locations with 53% voting “no.”
“We had so many people opposed to this at the beginning I think we need to give this time for people to decide whether it’s a good value for the community or the bad value for the community,” Mr. Judd said.
The Collective We suggested the following changes to the SATV ordinance:
It asked the city to expand the operating boundary south to Cactus Road and include all the commercial corners along the boundary edge.
It also asked for longer operating hours on certain days for nighttime spring training games and other special events.
“The program is getting used and there are people out there who are enjoying the benefit of having the program,” company owner Clayton Bedoya told the City Council.
Mr. Bedoya also told them he wanted an expanded service area so spring training fans could access the restaurants south of the stadium complex.
“Right now we are not looking at expanding our fleet size,” Mr. Bedoya told the Council. “We were looking to accommodate some of the residents leaving spring training and wanting to go south on Bullard.”
The Council was split on whether extending the boundaries was a good idea. Some said it made sense, while others said it adds to the chance of trouble.
“After we get done with this COVID virus thing and things get back to normal where people can move around like they normally did and we get hotel occupancy like we normally had I think it would be a good time to try [extending] it again,” Mr. Remley said.
District 5 Councilman David Sanders said he doesn’t see problems happening with a bigger map.
“I liked the program at the beginning and I still do,” Mr. Sanders said. “I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Had we seen accidents, had we seen violations, I think we’re having a different conversation. But we’re not seeing that.”
District 3 Councilman Patrick Duffy said he had visual proof of the use of the scooters during the pilot program.
“I saw people riding them,” Mr. Duffy said. “I saw a lot of [Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers] players riding them. I saw students riding them.”
District 1 Councilman Roland Winters said he favors the vehicles as an added option for a transportation-starved region.
“Maybe it doesn’t fit with senior citizens, but these youngsters they can use these things,” Mr. Winters said. “At least it’s something they can use because we have very little transit, if any, in Surprise.”
Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.