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Data Shows Atlanta Had 2.1M Micromobility Riders in 2023

The Atlanta Department of Transportation has found that the city had more than 2.1 million shared micro-mobility rides in 2023 — the highest ridership levels for shared bikes and scooters since the pandemic.

(TNS) — Five years after Atlanta’s initial rentable e-scooter boom, the city is working to strengthen its relationship with providers, improve rider safety and expand equitable access.

The focus coincides with The Atlanta Department of Transportation latest data reporting over 2.1 million shared “micro-mobility” rides in 2023 — the highest ridership levels for shared bikes and scooters since the pandemic, said ATLDOT’s Ashley Finch.

Currently, Atlanta only approves permits for two companies — Lime and Bird — that must be renewed semiannually. Council members passed an ordinance Monday extending the permits for another year before leaders transition to a new program.

Finch said the shift is toward making the vehicles a permanent program rather than a pilot.

“We believe that a longer term relationship with our vendors strengthens the relationship and the vendor’s investment in the city,” Finch said.

Finch reported that shared bike and scooter riders have already logged almost a million miles in 2024, and trips are up 17% year-to-date. Atlanta was rated a top 10 city for micro-mobility ridership in 2022, and ranks fifth in overall ridership per capita. The highest ridership corridors include the East Beltline Trail, Midtown, Georgia Tech’s campus and Centennial Olympic Park.

The city has promoted scooters and bikes as an alternative to driving, an effort officials believe helps decrease traffic congestion and bridge gaps between existing MARTA and bus infrastructure.

Atlanta’s recent success with rentable bikes and scooters follows a long journey toward regulating the devices, beginning when Bird’s dockless e-scooter took the city by storm in 2019.

The city launched a permitting system that year through the Department of City Planning, allowing as many as nine companies and 12,700 scooters.

However, the new technology brought backlash over sidewalk clutter, since users don’t need to leave the device at a docking station. Lime scooters later left Atlanta when the city began enforcing impound fees for scooters discarded on sidewalks and roadsides.

Concerns also emerged from riders ignoring traffic laws or riding on sidewalks instead of the street. Following several e-scooter fatalities, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms implemented a nighttime riding ban from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

The ban remained in place until 2023 when city council expanded evening hours to midnight. ATLDOT officials say about 13% of trips now occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Geofencing also allows the city to manage riders’ paths through options like reduced speed zones, no ride zones or no parking zones. Finch said this technology can be implemented temporarily to maintain safety during large scale events such as Atlanta’s upcoming 2026 World Cup.

ATLDOT is working to further increase intersection safety and has already introduced five “corral” parking options to minimize vehicle clutter. Riders can also request more bike parking through the “Ride n Rack” app.

“This program has continuously evolved, as the industry has evolved, as technology has evolved, and we have ensured that we’ve continuously improved our regulations, our procedures and our overall program,” ATLDOT deputy commissioner Betty Smoot-Madison said. “And so we’ll continue to do that.

“We’ve come a long way from 2019, when thousands of scooters arrived on our public right of way, in what seemed to be overnight.”

Under the new vendor system, companies will sign three-year contracts, with an two-year option to renew. The new model will also include an updated fee structure, with specific costs not yet determined.

Current vendors pay $12,000 for an annual permit allowing up to 500 devices, with an additional yearly fee of $50 per device. Companies are also allowed to expand fleet sizes for a limited amount of time.

ATLDOT’s latest plan would still offer only one or two vendors access to Atlanta’s streets. Finch said the decision stems from staffing capacity and the complexity of managing multiple vendors in the past.

Councilman Bryon Amos, chair of the Transportation Committee, initially said the limit on providers concerned him and emphasized the need to provide a wide variety of vehicles. While later acknowledging that two vendors could work, he suggested future city budgets could reconsider ATLDOT funding to ensure the best products for citizens.

The permit system also requires each vendor place at least 2% of the daily fleet in each of three designated zones in low-income areas. Finch said ATLDOT hopes to expand the equity program and increase accessibility by offering more parking and deployment areas throughout the city.

“There’s a culture, because you don’t see as many young Black people on bicycles in the same way you do in Midtown, that I think creates a challenge and a friction point when trying to communicate with the community why this investment is so important,” said councilman Jason Dozier, whose district encompasses one of the equity zones. “These sorts of efforts go a long way in looking to change the broader culture.”

Finch said the request for proposals should be complete next year, before the current permits expire.

ATLDOT also launched a request for information for procurement on a bike share system in May.

Speakers during public comment during a committee meeting Tuesday appeared generally supportive of ongoing transportation planning.

© 2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.