Toronto e-scooter Pilot Program Facing Roadblocks

Budget constraints and continued opposition stand in the way of an e-scooter program possibly being launched any time soon. Mark McAllister looks at the roadblocks and the city’s efforts to create an overall micromobility strategy. By Mark McAllister and John Marchesan
Posted March 27, 2024

Toronto will soon see more e-scooters taking over the streets now that spring has arrived even though they’re still banned.

An e-scooter pilot program was first discussed at City Hall last summer in an effort to tackle what some consider to be a nuisance while also dealing with the reality that they, and other ‘micromobility’ vehicles, are here to stay.

“We need better ways for people to get around the city. We are adding hundreds of thousands of more people. We don’t have any more space on the roads,” said Coun. Diane Saxe.

While there is support to allow and control e-scooters in Toronto, the city is still a step removed from making it happen as they wait on a plan following requests to deliver some possibilities last July.

“We think it’s premature to consider bringing an e-scooter pilot, especially looking at other jurisdictions that have them,” said Alison Stewart, the director of advocacy and public policy with Cycle Toronto.

On May 1, 2021, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to opt out of the province’s e-scooter pilot over concerns about safety. Currently, e-scooters, considered standing electric kick-scooters, are not allowed to be operated, left, stored or parked on any public street in Toronto. This includes bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, trails, paths, sidewalks or parks under multiple Municipal Code Chapters.

“Until the Disability Advisory Committee is comfortable with any type of additional pilot that would see new forms of mobility sanctioned and piloted by the city, we’d really like to remain focused on Bike Share Toronto on that expansion,” added Stewart.

Toronto’s Bike Share program – operated by the Toronto Parking Authority – has expanded to over 9,000 bikes at 700 stations throughout the city. The likelihood of that government agency speeding up an e-scooter pilot is slim.

“Toronto Parking Authority is having to cut back on the capitol works that we’ve already asked it to do because there isn’t enough money and that is a big problem so they’re not anxious to take on another program right now,” said Coun. Saxe.

The city’s efforts to create a larger ‘micromobility’ strategy involving different modes of transportation have included consulting with different organizations on how best to implement safety measures, education and enforcement. But any plans won’t come until a report is released in May.

Last year Brampton launched its e-scooter pilot making 750 scooters available for public use on the roads and bike lanes with speed limitations. It said last December that the program “exceeded expectations” when it came to ridership with 110,000 users taking approximately 200,000 rides and that the “significant positive community feedback” will see the program return in April for another year.

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