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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 1 week ago

St. Petersburg, after long look at trend, hops aboard scooter craze

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A year and half on from their debut in Tampa, e-scooters make their way across the bay.

More than a year after they arrived in Tampa, e-scooters are now available in St. Petersburg. The Sunshine City allowed e-scooter makers Razor and Veo to deploy 425 of the devices, which are allowed to operate in bike lanes and streets that have a speed limit of 30 mph or less. 

Tampa allowed four companies — Uber, Bird, Lime and Spin — to offer e-scooters. St. Pete has taken a more deliberative approach, saying the devices’ usage and safety would be studied during an 18-month pilot program. If all goes well, up to 1,500 e-scooters could operate in the city’s downtown area. The devices will not be permitted on sidewalks, and they will be limited to automobile areas at the St. Pete Pier. 

The scooters will cost $1 to start, and then 33-37 cents per mile, depending on which type is being ridden. Veo has deployed stand-up scooters while Razor has debuted a new model that has a seat but can also be ridden while standing up. 

E-scooters have faced criticism in other cities because of riders’ propensity to leave them strewn about on sidewalks instead of parking them in designated areas. St. Pete’s agreements with Razo and Veo will see users billed for ride time if they don’t dock scooters in specified corrals being set up around the city. 

Riders, says Evan Mory, the City of St. Petersburg’s director of transportation and parking, “are not allowed to end a ride until they park in the corral, so their charges will continue to accrue until a time limit is reached, which differs by company but is about 100 minutes.” That means a fee of about $35, Mory tells Coffee Talk, adding that riders will receive a notification on their Razor or Veo app when they have ended their ride with a properly docked scooter.

And, Mory adds, with 90 corrals being built — about half of which are already operational — there should be no reason for riders to leave scooters where they aren’t supposed to be parked. Also, the cost to the city should be minimal. “The city is overseeing the construction of the corrals,” he says. “Each company is paying $40,000 toward their construction and we expect the final cost to be between $80,000 and $120,000, so the city may also contribute up to $40,000.” 

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