Jun. 15, 2023 By John Schilling
The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Thursday, June 15, the city’s e-scooter share program will expand to Queens next year.
The program will now cover areas of eastern Queens spanning approximately 20 square miles from Flushing and Auburndale to Rochdale Village and Springfield Gardens.
The DOT, which launched the e-scooter pilot program in the East Bronx in August 2021, has seen over 115,000 unique users take more than 2 million trips in the almost two-year period. The department hopes the program’s expansion will help more New Yorkers commute throughout the city while also decreasing pollution.
“E-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility will help us build a cleaner and greener transportation system that connects residents to commercial and transit hubs,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez in a statement. “I am thrilled that our e-scooter sharing program is here to stay and that it will expand to eastern Queens. Our pilot program met and exceeded our ambitious goals — and it’s time we make it available in more neighborhoods.”
By providing connections to commuters, the NYC DOT estimates the expansion will benefit 600,000 residents, although the program’s boundaries are still to be determined based on community feedback, according to a press release.
Similar to service in the east Bronx, e-scooter share operating companies Bird, Lime and Veo will also provide service to the eastern Queens neighborhoods when the expansion launches in 2024.
Bird, founded in September 2017, reports that 32% of their NYC riders have taken over 100 trips, with the other 68% having taken 20 trips or more. In total, the company estimates over 570,000 rides since the pilot program began and hopes to build on that momentum with the expansion to Queens.
“Bird is thrilled to participate in New York City’s expanded e-scooter sharing program,” said Shane Torchiana, Bird CEO. “We’ve enjoyed the partnership with NYC DOT over the last two years and look forward to continuing working together and bringing our scooters to more boroughs, meeting the micro-mobility needs of even more New Yorkers and connecting them to vital destinations in a safe and sustainable way. We believe if Bird can make it in New York, we can make it anywhere.”
An evaluation report released last November by the NYC DOT found that the e-scooter share program provided “functional and accessible mobility options” that benefitted underserved Bronx communities and offered commuters further connections to otherwise hard-to-reach subway stations, bus, and ferry stops, all while alleviating motor vehicle use in the area.
Supporters of the program’s expansion hope to see this reflected in Queens as well, especially in areas often considered to be “transportation deserts.” This includes District 31, which is represented by NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers.
“I celebrate the extension of DOT’s e-scooter sharing program to transit desert neighborhoods like communities I represent in southeast Queens that have been long underserved by public transit,” said Brooks-Powers, who also serves as the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “This program will provide a clean, efficient, and affordable micro-mobility option to community members in need. I look forward to working with DOT to ensure the program is rolled out equitably.”
For City Councilman Robert Holden, the program’s expansion is cause for concern. Holden, who represents District 30, introduced legislation back in January that would repeal city regulations and ban people from riding e-scooters and e-bikes throughout NYC.
While Holden’s bill has not made any significant progress, he maintains that e-scooters and e-bikes are threats to neighborhood safety and have done more harm than good.
“The expansion of this program will lead to scooters littering our streets, further reducing our quality of life,” Holden told QNS. “Rideshare programs may be popular in other parts of the city, but in our neighborhoods they have reduced parking and increased lawlessness in our streets and sidewalks.”
District 32 Councilwoman Joann Ariola, a co-sponsor of Holden’s bill, is also skeptical about the program’s expansion, adding that car ownership is too common of “a necessity to get around” in some neighborhoods and e-scooters will make commuting more challenging for both drivers and those on foot.
“The DOT is fixated on removing cars from our streets,” Ariola told QNS. “This new decision to expand the e-scooter program into the borough will only further reduce parking spaces — thus negatively impacting the quality of life for our residents — and creates new hazards with people inevitably zipping along sidewalks and colliding with pedestrians.”
To address safety concerns, the DOT requires new riders to undergo “in-app safety training and quiz and age verification.” Additionally, new riders are limited to “Beginner Mode” in their first three trips, limiting their speed to 10 mph and eliminating rides during overnight hours.
According to the DOT, this approach to safety has resulted in “few serious injuries and no fatalities” since the program’s initial launch. Holden still believes more needs to be done, pointing to NYC DOT not requiring adult riders to wear a helmet, have insurance, or be a licensed driver.
“As this program grows, we can expect more traffic injuries to occur,” Holden said. “We need to have everyone on e-mobility devices licensed, insured and following the same traffic laws as everyone else on the road.”