Lettia Younger, left, and Sheila Back log into the Spin Electric Scooters app at Courthouse Square before taking a test ride on the electric scooters. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Thousands ride Dayton’s electric scooters in first weeks

Just weeks after launching in Dayton, Spin has doubled the number of electric scooters it has in the city, citing their popularity.

Customers in Dayton have taken more than 11,000 rides on the e-scooters, which are activated and paid for using a mobile phone app.

E-scooters have proven popular among everyone from University of Dayton students to CEOs of major downtown employers to weekend fun-seekers.

“They say it’s successful here for our market size and the ridership continues to go up,” said Brandon Policicchio, chief customer and business development officer for the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, which Spin uses to collect and deploy the devices.

MORE: Downtown Dayton welcomes Spin electric scooter

Getting around the greater downtown area has never been easier because of Spin e-scooters; the Flyer, a free shuttle bus that started service last year; Link bike share; ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft; electric trolley buses; and other transportation options.

The introduction of e-scooters in some other U.S. communities led to crashes or safety complaints and lower use of other transportation options, like bike-share programs.

But there’s no evidence crashes and injuries right now are a significant issue with e-scooters in Dayton, the Flyer’s ridership is still growing and Dayton’s bike sharing program in September posted its best month of 2019.

Spin, a San Francisco-based company owned by Ford Motor Co., deployed about 100 to 120 scooters in the downtown area on Aug. 21.

A few weeks ago, the company decided to expand its Dayton fleet to about 200 scooters because of high use, officials said.

Every day, about 92 people in Dayton try out the e-scooters for the very first time, a company spokesperson said, and locally, the average trip is nearly two miles and takes about 9 minutes.

MORE: 3 companies eye electric scooter rentals for Dayton; city OKs new rule

Spin e-scooters are dockless, meaning they can be parked anywhere within the boundaries of the local service area, which covers the greater downtown area, as well as sections of the west side close to the river and parts of southern and eastern Dayton.

E-scooters have been most popular downtown and along Irving Avenue and East Stewart Street, near UD’s campus, the spokesperson said. The highest use has been during the evening hours, especially on weekends, and they are so popular that sometimes it can be hard to find one close by to rent.

E-scooters help with first and last mile connectivity and likely are bringing people downtown and are encouraging people to explore more of the center city since they make it easy to get around, Policicchio said.

“It allows people to see the city more and in some circumstances get outside the city and go to places they haven’t been before,” Policicchio said.

The scooters are direct and fast transportation, meaning downtown workers can grab a bite to eat at locations that otherwise would be too far to visit on foot, like Brown Street or the Oregon District, Policicchio said.

The Flyer, a free shuttle bus that travels between downtown and near UD campus, has been popular for similar reasons.

Many people who have attended festivals or community events like Oktoberfest park downtown and then use e-scooters to their destinations, he said. Some people ride the scooters simply for fun. Others take them to work or to get to and from meetings and appointments.

Spin contracts with the Greater Dayton RTA to manage its on-the-ground operations, which includes collecting the scooters every night, charging the devices and re-deploying them each morning, Policicchio said.

MORE: Downtown Dayton’s free shuttle service gets new stops, new bus

Greater Dayton RTA leaders view scooters as a part of public transportation since it is another mode of mobility that complements what’s already available, he said.

Dayton received Spin’s newest type of e-scooter, and mechanical and technical problems have been fairly minimal, Policicchio said.

Malfunctioning and damaged e-scooters are taken to Columbus for repairs or retirement. The average lifespan of some e-scooters is about a month, according to some news reports.

A small number of scooters have been lost. Others have been taken outside the service area. When that happens, they shut down and will not work until they are returned to inside the service boundaries.

E-scooters have been semi-controversial nationwide, in part because they have been blamed for injuries and traffic problems in other cities, including Detroit, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, Utah.

This newspaper reviewed hundreds of crash reports from Dayton kept by the Ohio Department of Public Safety since Spin’s launch date and found only one that mentioned a collision involving an e-scooter.

Miami Valley Hospital’s emergency room has not had any patients who were admitted for e-scooter or scooter accidents in recent time, according to Premier Health.

Spin’s launch also has not had a noticeable effect on downtown’s other transportation alternatives.

The Flyer’s ridership continues to climb every month. Link bike share saw a 35 percent increase in trips last month, compared to September 2018, said Laura Estandia, executive director of Bike Miami Valley.

Link has continued to evolve since launching in May 2015 and currently has more than 700 customers with annual memberships.

MORE: First in flight, Dayton seeks to be better for bikes

Link, which has about 225 bikes across 27 stations, this year started a “pay-as-you go” pilot that allows people to unlock and use a bike at a rate of $1 for every 10 minutes.

Link also has a close relationship with the Greater Dayton RTA, which owns the bikes and bike stations. Bike Miami Valley handles the administration.

RTA officials say they believe Link, Spin and the Flyer have and will continue to co-exist just fine.

Estandia said Link bikes have more utility than scooters because their baskets allow riders to carry items with them.

“I think depending on what kind of trip you need to make, it’s great to have multiple options that can serve different uses,” she said.

Dayton has the largest paved bike trail network in the nation and is one of only five cities that have electric trolley buses.

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