PROVO — It isn't quite planes, trains and automobiles, but this Utah County city is having a banner year for all things transit and, on Thursday, added rentable electric scooters to the menu of transportation options.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said the scooters, which cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of use, are arriving in the fast-growing community just as a new bus rapid transit line celebrates its first year of service and a planned expansion of the Provo airport nears its kickoff.
“2019 has been the year of transportation for Provo with the completion of Utah Valley Express and the expansion announcement at the airport,” Kaufusi said in a statement. “Now we’re launching a one-year trial of a scooter share program to add a micro-mobility option to our comprehensive multi-modal city transportation plan, all designed to manage traffic congestion as we grow and develop as a city.”
Kaufusi said the city opted for an intermediary administrative entity, Zagster, that will oversee how the new Spin scooter system is managed. That decision, she said, was motivated by the need to ensure resident concerns were addressed and avoid some of the issues that have arisen in other communities hosting so-called micromobility systems that include rentable scooters, bicycles and electric bicycles.
Those issues have ranged from stringent regulations to outright bans of the vehicles and, in a few instances, adversarial court battles. She also noted the 200 vehicle system is on a one-year provisional contract that could be either upgraded or eliminated, depending on how things work out.
"People have watched in other places and seen the good, the bad and the ugly," Kaufusi said. "We wanted to limit the number of scooters and keep the operation within our regulations, including sidewalk restrictions. Bringing Zagster in has allowed us to keep the controls we wanted to see."
The mayor also noted the scooters will not be allowed on the BYU campus and Zagster, in partnership with Spin, was able to create a geo-fencing system that disables the scooters once they cross into campus. Kaufusi said parking areas near the campus boundaries have been established to help accommodate students, staff and visitors who ride to the school.
For David Sullivan and his 7-year-old daughter Charlotte, the scooters added an extra element of fun to a father-daughter work day. Sullivan and his daughter, along with a group of colleagues, jumped on scooters for a ride to have lunch at a restaurant about six blocks from his downtown office. He said the new two-wheelers probably don't fit into his daily commute, but he likes the new option for making short connections around Provo.
"It's hard not to just smile when you get on and twist the throttle for the first time," Sullivan said. "I do think, as I run around town, I'll ask myself, 'Should I take a scooter instead of my car?'"
Kaufusi said plans are also in place to bring a bikeshare program to Provo and she expects the new program, a docked system where the bikes are parked in permanent locations and available for short-term rentals, will be installed next January.
Zagster CEO Dan Grossman, whose company is overseeing another scooter program that launched in St. George this spring, said he expects the Provo scooters to find a receptive audience.
“Provo is a beautiful city with breathtaking views — and it should be enjoyed out of a motor vehicle whenever possible," Grossman said in a statement. "We applaud Provo’s efforts in launching this scooter-share program and are excited to get the bikeshare launched later this year.
“We expect the market will have similar adoption to St. George, where we launched 400 scooters back in March and experienced 13,000 rides over the first month of that program."
Kaufusi said she sees the scooters and upcoming bikeshare systems, both of which operate from easy to use smartphone apps, as viable options to help solve first-mile/last-mile issues for public transit users as well as a way to help the city make inroads on traffic congestion and air quality issues.
And, she added, a scooter or bike ride is a great way to enjoy all that Provo has to offer.