Paul's Note - March 8, 2019

As many of you read in the Star, we worked on some regulations for dockless scooters. These are motorized scooters that can be rented for short trips. I got to use them on a trip to Southern California last year. Not only were they convenient, but riding one meant I wasn’t using a car, gasoline or taking up a parking space.

Even when they can legally hit the road at the beginning of the summer, I don’t anticipate we will see a lot of them in Ward 2 because of distances and we don’t have the density of other areas of town. You will be more likely to see them downtown or in the University area.

Bear in mind that I understand that there are problems with this new technology. In other communities, there have been injuries to riders and cluttered sidewalks.

The best example of the downsides these scooters can be found in San Diego, which is currently being sued by disability advocates because the scooters are being left on sidewalks and access ramps, making it difficult for people in wheelchairs or whose walking is impaired.

Many of San Diego’s problems were caused because scooter companies started operations there before the city had the chance to write regulations. Tucson, on the other hand, had rules in place to not allow them to operate until we had a chance to study the experiences of other cities. We’ve been able to look at over 100 cities that have allowed these scooters before we wrote these new rules.

By the way, at my last check, San Diego has still not written any new regulations for dockless scooters.

One of the most important moves we have made is that we will limit the city to 1000 of these devices. That’s 1/20 of what they have in San Diego (where they have twice the population). I think this is appropriate, both because it will give us a fair way to evaluate them during the trial period as well as solve a great deal of the problem with crowding.

That is in addition to the limits on the number of scooters, there are also rules on where they can be ridden (importantly, not on sidewalks), and that they can be only parked in areas where bikes can (again, not blocking sidewalks or other egresses). Continual violation of these rules can result in the termination of a company’s permit to operate. They’ll have a big incentive to make sure that their users follow Tucson’s rules.

A major point to remember is that this is a six-month trial. That will enable us to enact or fix rules if we encounter problems, or even abandon the program if it becomes unworkable.

To have the right to operate here, a company must sign an agreement that includes an annual fee of $15,000, a fee per ride as well as fees to pay for an extra city employee to monitor their compliance with things like parking regulations and helmet use.

When Scottsdale opened up to scooters, there were over a dozen companies that applied. We don’t anticipate that many, but in any event, we will only be granting permission to two operators.

There will still be adjustments to the agreement before we start accepting applications from companies. For example, I would like to see some scrutiny on the freelancers they hire to keep the devices charged and in desirable locations. Since we are projected to make over a quarter of a million dollars a year, I’d like to see that money earmarked for public safety.

I support this, but I know we need to be cautious. There have been some bad experiences other cities have had with some of these companies. The fact that we have a process and regulations will keep the worst players out. In the end, we’ll have another good transportation option for people that want to enjoy our city’s urban core, as well as an important source of revenue for the city.