Jessica Scott, bicycle and micromobility manager for the Dallas Department of Transportation, spoke with Community Impact about the scooter program’s highlights and challenges six months into its implementation. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are you most proud of about the relaunched electric scooter program and how scooters have been integrated back into the city?
I’m most proud about the fact that the scooters are being used, that we’ve seen a good number of trips happen. It shows that there’s a need and a desire for us to continue to invest in micromobility and the infrastructure to make those trips safe.
How many scooter trips is the city averaging?
So far, there have been 221,252 trips from May 24-Nov. 19. And those scooters have traveled more than 251,017 miles, which averages to about 1.15 miles per trip.
What are some of the challenges the electric scooter program has faced since its relaunch?
We’re still experiencing some sidewalk riding, especially in the Downtown area. That said, there’s been some improvement, from our perspective. We have seen some success with the [scooter vendors] stepping it up with issuing warnings and even suspensions to users. And they’re continuing to step it up with in-app education for users.
Another thing is the Dallas 311 app we have—some folks are using that 311 submission tool to report a lack of scooters in an area. So we have residents requesting more scooters in certain areas. One of the challenges right now is that the small scooter fleet and the current cap that’s allowed in the Uptown, Downtown and Deep Ellum zone has resulted in too few scooters. There’s not scooters where people are. So if you’re at the Farmers Market, you might have to walk two or three blocks to find a scooter sometimes. So that small number of scooters and cap on the deployment area might be negatively impacting our ridership numbers.
In April, slow-ride and no-ride zones were discussed. How successfully have those been implemented, and are there any bugs the transportation department is still having to work out?
Yes, we’re still working on small refinements as we’re made aware of them. In the past couple of months, we have worked on refining the no-ride zones, for example, around Klyde Warren Park. We’ve tried to make it a balance between having no-ride zones that are enforceable but still allowing scooter users to be in the street adjacent to the no-ride zones. I don’t want a scooter user who is going from Downtown to Uptown to have their ride impacted by the Klyde Warren Park no-ride zone. So we did spend some time with the operators and the Klyde Warren Park staff to finesse that no-ride zone.
Are you seeing residents voice the same complaints that were seen under the previous program—mainly having to do with safety and clutter—or is the feedback different this time around?
I’d say there’s not as many complaints. Both people who use the scooters and people who just see the scooters remember last time so vividly. I think at this point, everyone knows the expectations around where we should park and how we should ride, so I haven’t seen it be nearly as bad as the previous program.
For me, that’s really the biggest takeaway. Because we do have so many program rules and so much data available, ... everyone just has a better understanding of the expectations and is really close to meeting those.
Before the relaunch, it was discussed how each scooter vendor could potentially increase their fleet incrementally from the starting 500 scooters. Have they done so at all?
No, we’ve kept them all the same. We discussed increasing the fleet to the micromobility working group and City Council’s transportation and infrastructure committee a couple months back, and they just were not supportive of any program changes at the time. So from there, we couldn’t move forward with any changes.
We plan to take our recommendations to the micromobility working group and the transportation and infrastructure committee again, especially as we gear up to the next permit cycle in spring 2024. We’ll discuss these topics again and evaluate changes to the program rules.
What is your vision for the program moving forward, given what you’ve seen in the last six months? What would you like to see change or improve?
I would like to see the program continue to be a tool for people for their last-mile trips. I would like to see us gain support from City Council for program changes and the size and distribution of the scooters ... and just continued implementation for bicycle- and scooter-friendly infrastructure, like more bike lanes and more parking corrals.
Is there anything else you want residents to know?
Just thank you for your patience and support of this program. It takes a lot to create this new mode of transportation and to make space for it. There are challenges and growing pains, but patience for figuring this out and making this program work is appreciated. We look forward to continuing to work on it and refine it and make it something that’s usable for both residents and visitors.