By David Krogh
Portland is in the midst of a pilot program for E-scooters until the end of December of this year and since mid-March there has been a noticeable disappearance of them within the area.
E-scooters have often been referred to as a nuisance, a fad, a danger and conversely, as a viable alternative form of transportation, but they are not for everybody, especially during a pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused the use of E-scooters to “crater” according to a recent article in The Oregonian.
Bird and Lime, two of the major providers, have suspended their operations in Portland. Razor, which operates seated E-scooters, has reduced its available fleet, citing Governor Brown’s stay at home pronouncement as a primary incentive of reduced scooter use.
The most recent high point of use was the week of February 24 (the week the first COVID-19 case was announced in Oregon) at 12,300 trips per day according to Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) records.
Subsequently, E-scooter use dropped to 4,029 trips the week of March 16 and, during the last week of March, to a mere 197.
Spin, another provider in Portland, and Biketown, which rents the orange bicycles seen around town, are still operating. However, they also report dramatic ridership declines.
Declines in trips have been noted for buses and cars as well. Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) staff have reported as much as a 40 percent drop in vehicle traffic in the metro area during the last two weeks of March.
The Governor’s office is directing people to traveloregon.com/travel-alerts regarding the effects of COVID-19 and vehicle travel.
TriMet’s reduced demand from riders is in addition to bus safety issues raised by its employees’ union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. Lack of adequate driver protection materials and cleaning supplies had been cited for a rash of driver sick calls during the last week of March.
With that issue under control, TriMet announced a 21 percent cut-back of schedules for 58 of its routes, while maintaining current schedules on 27 other routes, TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said.
They are taking the unprecedented step of limiting the number of riders per bus to no more than 15 for purposes of maintaining social distancing. This and other pandemic related information for riders is available at trimet.org.
“To the extent that this is an indication that people are following social distancing advice, and also the order to avoid all but essential travel, this is positive,” City transportation spokesman John Brady stated.
Once the pandemic has released its grip and the Governor’s order is rescinded, transportation is anticipated to return to near normal again.