As I mentioned in my last blog entry (“Kayaking the Rivers”), I’m new to Pittsburgh. I don’t have a car, so I’m still figuring out the best way to get around – kayaking is fun but not practical on a daily basis! Since arriving in May, I have relied primarily on public transportation and bike share. Both systems are affordable but have their limitations.
The bus is great for when I have lots of stuff to carry but the route network is not comprehensive. Trips to and from downtown are easy but traveling in between neighborhoods can require multiple buses. Bike share is great for going places the buses don’t but I have to move my own weight. It’s great exercise but sometimes I want to arrive on time without sweating through my clothes.
Given the above, I was really excited when Scoobi launched on demand-electric scooter rental in Pittsburgh this July. I had seen similar services in other cities but had never tried them. It seemed like it might be the missing piece in my personal transportation puzzle. So I gave it a try – multiple times.
FIRST TRY: FAILURE
A sunny weekend in August. My wife and I wanted to check out a sale at our favorite thrift store across town and I was on a semester break from progrma. What better time to try Scoobi?
We each downloaded the app, entered our driver’s license and credit card numbers, and began watching the necessary training videos. It’s important to ensure that everyone on the road knows what they are doing but it was irritating that the app didn’t keep track of the videos we had watched. My wife had to watch each video multiple times before it let her complete her registration. This was the beginning of a very buggy Sunday afternoon.
Using the map in the app we located a pair of scooters close to our apartment. We each reserved one and walked a few blocks in opposite directions. She found hers right away but mine was nowhere to be found despite my standing right on top of the blue dot. I found another one close by and walked to it to make sure it it was actually there before reserving it. I activated it through the app and drove off to meet my wife.
I found her staring at her phone in dismay. Every time she attempted to activate her scooter the app gave her the dreaded Spinning Wheel of Death. We tried resetting the app and her phone multiple times but to no avail. While we tried to figure it out, another couple approached us. They were trying to use the service too and had tried to locate four different bikes that appeared on the map, but not on the street.
Taking this as a sign, we logged our errors through the app, left voice messages with Scoobi’s customer service hotline, and decided to try another time. I ended up taking a bike to the store.
INTERLUDE: CUSTOMER SERVICE
My wife left her email address with her voicemail and customer service got back to her within the same day. I left only my phone number and didn’t get a chance to speak to someone until I called in myself a few days later. The representative said that a lot of people had trouble with the app that day and Scoobi would be happy to refund my money.
SECOND TRY: SUCCESS!
The following weekend I wanted to attend Mass of the Holy Spirit on Duquesne campus so I thought I would give Scoobi another shot. This time things worked flawlessly. I reserved a scooter through the app before leaving home and found it exactly where that map said it would be. The app functioned without issues and the scooter was a cinch to operate. Each Scoobi has a helmet and a phone charger in the trunk. Some Pittsburgh drivers still seem uncomfortable sharing the road with bicyclists but respected me on my scooter.
Scoobi’s max out at 35 miles an hour so I set Google Maps to “avoid highways.” That it did, but it also set me along an unnecessarily circuitous route that took nearly 30 minutes to get from Squirrel Hill to downtown. This is the exact same amount of time it takes me on the bus but instead of paying $2.50, I was out $8.88. To be fair though, the route wasn’t Scoobi’s fault. In any case, it’s was cheaper than Lyft or Z-Trip.
Scooby is really promising technology. The app is still in beta so I’m sure the bugs will be worked out. The scooters are really comfortable and easy to operate. It’s not something that I see myself using regularly, but seems like a good “last minute” transportation option for people who are willing to pay a little extra. – Kevin Dole