AUSTIN (KXAN) — Another company is expanding from letting users catch and share rides, to having them zip along the streets of Austin on e-scooters. Lyft is the latest ride-hailing app company to launch its own brand of the ubiquitous scooters. They will join the thousands already on Austin streets.
Austin is the fifth city where the company is letting users activate scooters with its app during a year-long pilot program. People will even be able to reserve scooters ahead of time.
Lyft is also working with the city to not only have its 500 scooters scattered near the streets but to put up docking stations in high-demand areas and near transit stations.
“Lyft views the successful integration of scooters in Austin as part of a bigger movement to design cities for people, not just cars,” said Mike Kilpatrick with Lyft Bikes & Scooters Austin. “Lyft looks forward to working in coordination with the city and other stakeholders on this issue into the future.”
Lyft explained to KXAN they chose to bring scooters to Austin because after doing some research, they found Austin fit their goal of being in cities “built around people, not personal cars.”
According to Lyft’s economic impact report, 28 percent of Lyft passengers in Austin said owning a car was less important now.
At the end of October, Uber launched its own e-scooters, which people can also access through its app.
Austin currently has 9,021 e-scooters licensed with the city, spread among six companies.Those companies may not be using all their licenses, so the actual number of scooters on the streets may be less. Recently, Lime had 1,000 of its scooters removed for having too many in the downtown area.
Updates from the Austin Transportation Department
Thursday, the Austin City Council’s Mobility Committee is scheduled to receive updates from the Austin Transportation Department how the dockless program has been going.
“We continue to refine the ordinances and rules around dockless mobility and the scooters,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan.
Flannigan is satisfied with Austin’s progress so far.
“We’re in a good spot as a city,” he told KXAN. “It’s by no means perfect. Like anything the city does, it’s not going to be perfect, but I’m pleased and I’m confident that we’ll continue to refine those rules and strike that right balance.”
According to the Transportation Department’s presentation that will be shown Thursday, right now, seven companies are allowed to operate scooters here. They can have up to 11,001 scooters altogether.
The demand for the scooters seems to be there.
In October, 275,300 trips were taken on scooters, and 17,600 trips on dockless bicycles.
Right now, each company has a maximum number of scooters they can deploy. If a new company wants to come and join the market, they have to apply for a permit.
The University of Texas at Austin students Jackie Quinn and Gracie Dodge said they ride scooters frequently.
“I think I’ve taken a scooter 3 times today,” said Quinn. “It’ll make a 30 minute walk home be like 10 minutes.”
But they also have frustrations.
“I like scooters when I’m on them, but I don’t like them when I’m not on them because people will ride them on the sidewalks when you’re trying to walk,” said Dodge.
She was shocked to hear Lyft added 500 more scooters to Austin’s streets.
“I just feel like there’s already a ton. You see scooters not being used a lot on the sidewalks,” she said.
When asked if there should be a maximum number of companies that can operate here, Quinn said, “I feel like, at some point, the companies are going to realize that issuing more scooters, there’s not going to be the demand for them. I feel like at some point it’s going to be capped off on their own by the companies.”