Future Of Bird Scooters In Wenatchee In Question After Complaints
The future of Bird scooters in Wenatchee could be in question after city council complaints about a major drop in the level of service.
There are now 24 scooters in service compared to 150 last year, and the quality of the scooters appears to have dropped.
Mayor Frank Kuntz says there's been a major change in the number of scooters and how they’re maintained as well as their retrieval from far off locations.
"Last year if you saw a stray one in an area you wouldn't normally see one, within 24 hours it was picked up and taken care of," said Kuntz. "I think we're seeing more of those strays this time than last. So, I'm not trying to speak for all the council members, but I think there's a level of concern that this is way different than it was last year."
Bird northwest account manager Max Pecina spoke by phone with the council Thursday, and said a new fleet manager was being replaced after failing to improve performance. He also admitted that Bird had shifted scooters around to satisfy high demand in bigger markets, and Wenatchee had a different type of scooter this year. He said the current scooters still adhere to Bird's safety standards, but said they would try see if a mixed fleet could be brought to the city.
Pecina said there are plans to increase the fleet to around 48 to 60 scooters by the end of July.
He said the hope is to have about 100 hundred scooters running by the end of August, although it would depend on manpower.
Council member Top Rojanasthien noted the current scooters are not the same quality as last year and said the drop in the number of scooters was troubling.
Council member Keith Huffaker expressed concern that there were kids as young as 12 years old "flying down the sidewalks in a dangerous manner" even though riders are required to be 18-years-old.
Huffaker also said the scooters are not being parked safely and are just lying on the ground.
"I'm having a real struggle with the concept of having the scooters in our town if they're going to be treated this way."
Pecina said they would look into requiring additional verification of age to prevent underage riders.
Council member Mark Kulaas said he was troubled by the riders' experience with the scooters this year.
"I'm really discouraged by the comments of the users and the difficulty that they have in finding scooters period," said Kulaas. "Then finding a scooter that's not charged. And finding scooters that are left for at least, if not longer, in some really odd places. It's just such a difference from last year...The people that use them are unhappy with this years’ experience."
The city council has agreed reassess the service in a month.
The agreement for the service with Bird was renewed this spring. The contract has a 30 day out clause if either party wants to terminate the agreement.
The council will meet with Pecina again on August 10.
The city receives five cents for every ride under the agreement, which means the city would have received about $110,000 last year from ridership.