Portland streets could flood with up to 15,000 e-scooters
Portland's fling with electric scooters is transforming into a long-term relationship.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has announced a return date for a flood of as many as 15,000 e-scooters eventually coming to city streets — this time during a year-long test drive. The second official pilot starts Friday, April 26 and expires on the same day in 2020.
Users can expect to pay a 25-cent street fee when they ride — and could be slapped with $50 fines for riding on sidewalks or $15 for illegal parking. PBOT says the companies will have to meet "ambitious" goals to deploy 15,000 scooters using technologies still in development.
"With good data, we can make good decisions," Interim Transportation Director Chris Warner said in a statement. "Our comprehensive data requirements helped show that e-scooters eliminated thousands of car trips last year."
The Portland Tribune first reported that disability advocates were ill at ease after seeing the two-wheeled devices clogging public right of ways — such as sidewalks. Disability Rights Oregon was especially irked that city officials didn't hold public forums or seek their input after the first pilot ended in November.
Both sides' lawyers met at City Hall, and local elected leaders subsequently pledged to take the criticism to heart.
"Illegal e-scooter use on sidewalks and irresponsible parking came through loud and clear as the most prevalent problems with the program," noted transit Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.
She continued: "E-scooters are unquestionably fun to ride: the challenge of this second pilot will be to see if it's possible to mitigate problems while demonstrating that e-scooters can benefit Portlanders left out of the economic mainstream and advance our city's climate goals."
Companies must re-apply to participate in the scooter sequel. PBOT is accepting applications through April 9, and expects to notify finalists on April 18. The new applications prioritize companies offering e-scooters "with seats" that can be locked to public bike racks.
The bureau has changed its rules for the newfangled contraptions, but the regulations won't be permanent until the City Council votes on the issue after the pilot ends. Here's what to expect:
• PBOT says companies will likely deploy about 2,500 e-scooters initially, compared with 2,043 during the last test. However, embedded in the new rules are incentives that allow the tech companies to boost their hypothetical deployment to between 9,000 and 15,000 e-scooters by January.
• The incentives include a 20-percent allotment boost for businesses that "eliminate" sidewalk riding, and another 20 percent for completely quashing improper parking.
• There are also incentives for increasing ridership in East Portland, hiring a consultant to study climate and traffic impacts and luring attendees to free safety workshops. A final incentive goes to companies who demonstrate a "commitment to collaboration" with the city.
• Companies will now be charged a five- to 20-cent right-of-way fee, which PBOT says will fund new neighborhood greenways and bike lanes. Geofencing technology means riders will be unable to deactivate scooters inside parks, including in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and repeat offenders may be fined.
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