How many “pilot studies” will it take for Milwaukee to decide whether or not to allow those dockless electric scooters to roam/litter the streets?

At least three, apparently.

On Monday morning, the Common Council’s Public Works Committee gave the Department of Public Works the go-ahead to conduct a third “Dockless Scooter Pilot Study.” Once again, the study will “observe, solicit feedback on, and evaluate the effectiveness of dockless scooters in Milwaukee for the purpose of determining how to best incorporate scooters into the transportation landscape moving forward.”

The new study is set to begin “no earlier” than July 1, 2022, though DPW officials estimate that after an application and review process, scooters wouldn’t actually return to Milwaukee streets until early August.

In 2021, scooters returned to Milwaukee streets on June 1.

Unlike previous studies, the new study will last more than a year, ending December 31, 2023.

No more than three companies will be allowed to apply for the 8,000th third study. In the past, the three companies in Milwaukee have been Bird, Lime, and Spin. At Monday’s meeting, DPW officials noted that at least seven companies—including a local company—had expressed interest in operating in Milwaukee.

Each company will be allowed to deploy up to 600 scooters throughout seven city-defined zones, for a total fleet of 1,800. The downtown zone, Zone 1, carries a cap of 100 scooters per company, or 300 scooters in total.

The downtown zone was off-limits most of last summer. The “ban” was triggered when a consultant determined that more than 10% of riders were riding on the sidewalk—a big no-no. That “trigger ban” isn’t part of the new study, though several areas remain off-limits for scooter riders. They include all sidewalks, the RiverWalk, Lakeshore State Park, and “other areas as directed by the Commissioner of Public Works.”

Several areas are off-limits for scooter parking, too. They include bridges, the RiverWalk, Lakeshore State Park, the Hank Aaron State Trail, the UWM and Marquette campuses, and “other areas as directed by the Commissioner of Public Works.”

The DPW recorded a total of 481,706 scooter rides in Milwaukee during 2021’s half-year study. In 2019, during the first study, 350,130 rides were recorded. (Due to the then-new COVID-19 pandemic, scooters never materialized in 2020.)

The DPW received 89 emails or phone calls about scooters in 2021, virtually all complaints. Thirty-eight percent of the complaints were from repeat individuals.

The Milwaukee Police Department, meanwhile, reported 15 scooter crashes in 2021.

Companies looking to deploy scooters in 2022 will have to pay a series of fees to the City: $50 per scooter, $0.25 per trip (billed monthly), and $25 per “relocation by the City of Milwaukee or any other public agency operating within the City of Milwaukee.”

So will Milwaukee ever have a permanent scooter program? “We’re in the process of creating a permanent program, but there are some logistics we still have to go through,” the DPW said at Monday’s meeting. “If the permit program somehow comes to fruition before the end of the pilot, we would terminate this pilot program and go into a full permanent program. The intention is to get scooters on the streets as quickly as possible.”

The 2022-23 scooter study still needs full Common Council and mayoral approval. The Common Council meets tomorrow, June 21.

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.