It’s been about 20 days since electric scooters got the boot in Dallas. Citing public safety concerns and compliance issues, council members Adam Medrano and David Blewett and transportation director Michael Rogers banded together to implement a temporary ban of the scooters. But, scooterless Dallas might not be so temporary after all.
A source at one of the city’s scooter vendors said the earliest they might see a relaunch is in November, a time when ridership is usually down. The low ridership could be exacerbated by the pandemic as well, the source said. If vendors have to wait until November, many will have to reconsider whether continuing operations in Dallas makes sense.
The source said the last few weeks of talks with the city have been frustrating. The scooter vendors offered solutions for what the city sees as problems: scooters operating after hours in areas they don’t belong and being used as recreation for teens. Largely, the talks didn’t go anywhere until Jessica Scott, the transportaion office’s alternative transportation coordinator, got involved.
Now that Scott is taking the lead on reintroducing the scooters into Dallas, the vendors have a timeline for when they can resume operations. But the timeline and a potential requirement that the companies provide bids for the services, are going to make it hard for vendors to continue, the source said.
Scott did not respond for comment.
New problems wouldn’t necessarily arise from requiring bids, but scooter vendors spent a good portion of early 2020 negotiating a new ordinance that largely has not been administered, the source said. “Now they want to do a [bid] pretending that will fix issues when all they need to do is actually administer the program they passed in March,” the source said.
This wouldn’t be the first time a rental scooter vendor pulled out of Dallas. Lyft, the San Francisco-based rideshare company, retired its Dallas scooter operations in November last year, according to The Dallas Morning News. The company simultaneously rode out of several other big cities — San Antonio, Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; and Phoenix — saying it wanted to shift resources away from “smaller markets.”
Medrano, Blewett and Rogers went out field trips with staff from different departments to assess the problems posed by the scooters and found operations continued even after their shutdown times in Deep Ellum and downtown and that they were used for non-transportation purposes. These trips into the community and a meeting with the scooter vendors prompted the temporary ban.
Councilmembers Medrano and Blewett did not respond for comment.
Rogers said the transportation office is still in talks with groups like the Deep Ellum Foundation and Downtown Dallas Inc. about their concerns and is working on a presentation for the city’s transportation and infrastructure committee about how to move forward with scooter operations.
“I love micro-mobility and we want to have as many options as possible, but it’s a balance,” Rogers said.
DPD Deputy Chief Thomas Castro said during community meetings that some residents and businesses complained about the scooters. Thomas said most of the complaints involved riders getting hurt.
“They’re zipping in and out of traffic, riding on the sidewalks, not obeying traffic laws,” Thomas said. “That really was the focus from public safety, that someone is going to get seriously injured or killed.
The announcement of the temporary ban seemed to take some by surprise. While the transportation director had the authority to institute a ban, neither Mayor Eric Johnson nor council member Lee Kleinman, chair of the transportation and infrastructure committee, were involded in the decision.
Lime, one of the city’s scooter vendors, conducted a survey of its riders shortly after the ban took effect and gave them an opportunity to reach out to their councilmembers about why they want to see scooters back on the streets. The survey collected 143 responses.
According to the survey, 95% of Dallas riders think the scooters are safe, and 94% want them to return to the city.
One of the responses gathered and sent to Blewett was from a young woman named Courtney who recently moved to Dallas. She said, “scooters are my guarantee that I will make it home safely from work, the doctor’s office or dinner. Without a car, I am not unable to safely travel the city.”