WITCHITA, KS: There’s a new pilot program in Witchita, Kansas with the Santa Monica-based Bird scooters. Bird spokeswoman Jasmine Wallsmith says there was a new opportunity in the market. Therefore, Bird is doing a pilot project with the city of Wichita that begun on October 1st goes until April 1th 2021 with up to 500 scooters.
200 to 300 Bird Scooters Have Been Distributed Throughout Wichita
“They’re going through a deployment process now,” said Mike Tann, transit director for Wichita. The city has deployed about 200 to 300 so far. The users can download the Bird app to find out where the scooters are. Then they can find out how many are live at a specific time. “One week in, and it’s going great,” Wallsmith said. At this time last year, Tann said Wichita saw about 16,000 to 17,000 scooter trips a month.
COVID-19 was a Game Changer
“When COVID hit, everything just went out the window,” Tann said. Tann said the city’s scooter usage is different than a lot of other cities. Here, Tann said about 90% of rides are recreational. Although in other cities, users take scooters to get to other forms of transportation including buses and subways. As opposed to Wichita, where a lot of trips begin and end at same site. Because there aren’t as many people downtown due to the pandemic, Tann said, “Therefore, usage is way down, which is what you’d expect.” He said it’s off by about 50%.
Tann said there’s no limit to how many scooter contracts the city could have. “I think the free market manages it more than people think.”
As a result, the cost of a scooter ride depends on the amount of time a user has it, Wallsmith said. Typically, it’s $1 to unlock the scooter. The total average ride costs $2 or $3.
In some markets, Bird has some issues and some in cases was asked to leave. Tann said the company is one of the two largest providers of micro-mobility. In some cases, the issue, in particular, may have to do with the subcontractors who could may be handling maintenance or charging.
“A lot of it is based upon how well the community is monitoring that,” he said. “We monitor the system very closely.”
Tann said that’s part of the point of a pilot project.