Midland expands shared transportation options as part of accessibility improvement strategy

Midland residents and visitors will soon have more options for getting around the city.

With warmer weather on the horizon, the City of Midland is expanding its shared transportation program to include electric scooters managed by Bird Rides Inc. The scooters will be accessible throughout Midland at strategic points like the Center for the Arts and multiple locations downtown.
The Bird Scooters will soon roost in Midland.
A fleet of approximately 100 scooters will be available to users who install an app from Bird Rides. Ride costs will include a flat rental fee plus a per-minute charge for travel use. Riders can return e-scooters to any one of the access locations in Midland.
An app will enable you to rent a bird scooter.
When using the e-scooters, riders must go no faster than 25 mph and stick to streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. If it’s available, they must ride in a bike lane. E-scooters will not be allowed on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. They will be permitted on sidewalks but they must yield to pedestrians.

Midland City Council voted unanimously to approve the e-scooter program earlier in February. Grant Murschel, City of Midland Director of Planning and Community Development, describes the initiative as a sustainable means of making transportation available to the public.

“The city doesn't have a direct cost to be able to manage the program,” explains Murschel. “We don't have any time that's going to be dedicated to managing it, but will simply deal with any possible concerns or complaints or questions that people may have as they are starting to use the e-scooters more.”

Bird Rides will assume full responsibility for maintaining vehicles and access stations with the help of local partners and hired staff. The company will also manage insurance considerations and usage agreements. Bird implements a similar e-scooter program in Detroit.

In past years, Midland successfully operated a fleet of ride-share bicycles in collaboration with Baxter Inc but was forced to suspend the program in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The bike access initiative was not fully sustainable and relied on grant support. Murschel notes the city is continually looking to increase mobility for residents who do not own vehicles; he does not rule out the possibility of shared bikes returning to Midland in the future.

Scooting into the future

Helping people get around Midland without cars can be challenging due to the city’s layout and design. Many roads have high speed limits, while essential locations like stores and doctors’ offices are spread out throughout the city and its outskirts.

“We've designed our entire city to facilitate vehicle travel and so it's not lending itself to a natural transition to do some of the other [transportation] modes as quickly as other communities that have more density in certain areas,” says Murschel. “But we're seeing a lot of investment in the community and I think that we have an opportunity to just think strategically about where we build density within our community to allow for easier access to some of the amenities that people use on a daily basis.”

Grant Murschel is the Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Midland.Murschel believes that modern motorists will quickly adjust to driving alongside people using micro-transportation vehicles like e-scooters, just like horseback travelers of yore had to acclimate to sharing the road with Model Ts.

In the meantime, Midland community developers have big plans for the future. The City Modern Master Planning project promises to address accessibility and mobility concerns in the city while honoring Midland’s mid-century modern architectural heritage. Proposed designs will take into account how communities and lifestyles have changed since the mid-twentieth century. The project timeline extends to 2050 and includes both short-term and long-range improvements.

“It’s an opportunity for the city to look holistically at the future and start thinking about the vision for the future of Midland,” says Murschel. “It’s also a really great opportunity for the city to think about what modernism means for Midland in this next middle part of the twenty-first century.”

More information about Midland’s new e-scooter program can be found at https://www.cityofmidlandmi.gov/sharedmobility. The official launch date is yet to be announced.

Read more articles by Marta Manning.

Marta Manning was born in Poland and relocated to Midland after living in various cities on the East Coast. A lifelong passion for writing and photography prompted Marta to shift her career trajectory from lab science to freelance journalism. She contributes regular articles on medical topics to WebMD.com and helps business clients write proposals for federal research funding. Her articles have appeared in the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the NAMI.org national blog, and the Midland Daily News.
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