Anyone who’s been Downtown over the past couple of years knows that electric scooters in the area are ubiquitous—far more so than in any other area of the city.
And late last month, city officials released data backing up all of that anecdotal evidence: In 2021, two-thirds of all scooter trips that were taken in Long Beach began and ended in the city’s 1st District, which stretches from the Port of Long Beach north to Pacific Coast Highway and includes all of Downtown. The next most-frequented district was nearby District 2, with about 17% of scooter trips, followed by District 3, with about 10% of trips.
Combined, the three beachfront districts represented 95% of all scooter trips taken last year. North Long Beach’s 9th District, by comparison, saw 0.01% of the city’s scooter trips.
And while the reasons behind these discrepancies may seem obvious—the coastal districts have more tourist attractions and less parking, making an e-scooter a more viable alternative to a car than it might be in other areas—the gap in scooter usage is still something the city has tried to guard against.
Long Beach’s scooter program requires scooter companies to provide at least 20% of their fleets in three zones across the city: a coastal zone, which largely comprises Districts 1, 2 and 3; a zone that falls west of Long Beach Airport and includes Central and North Long Beach; and an East Long Beach zone.
Fern Nueno, Long Beach’s mobility programs officer, told me that while scooter companies do comply with that requirement, they have noticed where the demand is highest and deploy their fleets accordingly.
Still, Nueno said the city is aware of the usage gaps and is weighing whether and how it might incentivize more scooter trips beyond the coast.
“It’s something to think about more in the future: Why are (scooter trips) happening more there? Would people ride scooters in other locations? If, so what would they need to do that? Is that something we can control?” Nueno said. “What’s the reason for the trip—is it just for fun? Is it to get somewhere they need to be—is it something they could replace a vehicle trip with?
“So there are a lot of different kinds of transportation questions and concerns we’re looking at,” she added, “but it definitely doesn’t surprise me when I see these numbers.”
Even though almost all of the scooter trips in Long Beach are happening in tourist-heavy areas, the city found that there’s a roughly even split between tourists and local residents using scooters.
To determine whether a scooter user is a tourist or a resident, city staff divvied up the number of scooter accounts that have been used once versus accounts that have been used repeatedly—an imperfect measure, to be sure, but still a decent proxy to get at the overall trends.
Between August 2018 and October 2021, 183,486 one-time user accounts were created, compared to 176,663 repeat-user accounts. But while there were slightly more tourist accounts, the resident accounts represented about 86% of all trips taken—meaning that when you see someone riding a scooter in Long Beach, odds are pretty good it’s a resident.
Nueno said the usage numbers overall are encouraging for the city, though she acknowledged there have been some challenges.
“We have made changes based on concerns we hear from residents about too many scooters parked in one area, or people noticing they get knocked down and no one’s picking them up quickly,” she said. “So we added an option to the GO Long Beach app to report scooter violations. We are doing a short-term contract, or a short-term agreement with a company called Sweep to have more people in the field to document violations and then fix issues right then and there.”
The scooter companies themselves—Bird, Lime, Razor and VeoRide all currently have fleets in the city—have also been good partners in addressing concerns, Nueno added.
The program, though, is still relatively new. Long Beach ran a scooter pilot program from July 2018 to April 2020 and launched its current Shared Micro-Mobility Program in August 2020. Nueno said city staff are keeping a close eye on what’s working and what’s not.
Through both feedback and user data, Nueno said her team is always looking to “better understand the program, and for us as a city, in Public Works, but especially in our mobility programs division, we really want to provide people with fun and safe opportunities to move around the city in different ways.”
And so far, Nueno said she considers the program a success.
“We hope that people are enjoying the program and taking advantage of it,” she said. “It makes Long Beach a more dynamic city to live in, to work in and to visit.”