Dockless scooter / bike / tiny vehicle ideas / resolutions

I’ve been very interested in the discussion about tiny dockless vehicles (scooters and bikes). We’re currently in the middle of a pilot and I think it’s overall been pretty successful, but some issues have come up:

  1. The number of scooters allowed under the cap isn’t enough to form a reliable transportation network. At least 1/2 the time when I want to ride a scooter, I don’t actually see any near me.

  2. No scooters are allowed to be deployed outside the greater downtown area (e.g. to Mueller).

  3. I’m scared that the scooters will disappear if the city goes through with their idea to require devices that lock scooters to bike locks – and bike locks will be all occupied by dockless.

I’ve talked to a bunch of different folks, including other riders, bike folks, and people from the company and these are the recommendations I’ve got so far for changes to the pilot. Thinking of suggesting a FAN resolution and curious what other people think.

  1. Either: a) remove the vehicle caps and let companies respond to demand, or b) institute a per trip per day minimum number of trips before companies can add more to their cap to make sure they don’t get too far ahead of demand. For example: require at least 3rides / day per scooter, 2 per e-bike, 1 per regular bike.
  2. Remove geographic restrictions that limit dockless mobility to the greater downtown area.
  3. Cancel the upcoming “lock to” requirement.
  4. Come up with more nudges to push and educate riders to park and ride properly. The “take a picture of the parked vehicle” feature has worked well and more stencils of suggested places for vehicle parking could also help.
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Bikes take up more space than scooters - if you have a threshold on usage shouldn’t it be based on community, not vendor break even business model? Referring to one bike use per day as trigger vs. three for scooter.

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Agreed with what I think Phil’s point was. Charge based on how much of the public right-of-way a device takes up (essentially size of the device); not based on how profitable they may be. Let the companies decide if the cost is worth it. This is as close to an honest accounting of costs as you could get at this point, and would lead to the least possible distortions due to unaccounted externalities.

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It’s a good point. Taking suggestions for replacement concepts.

Is there a figure floating around somewhere for the cost burden per scooter (or bike?)? I seem to remember it coming up near the start of the pilot but can’t find it now – if it’s a halfway credible estimate, my first-choice policy would probably be to price permits at that level and be done with it.

Another thing I think I’d like to see is more of a real-time basis for it – e.g., all your scooters need to feed real-time data to ATD whenever they’re out, and you can have as many scooters on the bench as you like but only $cap out at any time (assuming $cap is finite at all, which I’m not sure it should be)

I agree the pilot has been successful. I would personally support removing vehicle caps, removing geographic restrictions, and keeping vehicles dock-less.


I agree. It would be great to see them as far north as the Northcross area, where I live. I wrote my council member and the Mayor in support of most of your suggestions, Dan (before I saw your post).

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What, exactly, are the geographic restrictions on dockless scooters and bikes, @dkesh? It seems the full set of “emergency” regulations, adopted May 7, are in this document, but I am not sure.

The “Service Area and Size of Fleet” section mentions the Downtown Austin Project Coordination Zone (DAPCZ), the boundaries of which are shown here, but the adopted regulations seem to allow for operations outside that zone.

As with all resolutions, it is helpful to note how it supports the FAN vision. In this case, I would highlight these two items in the vision:

Our neighborhoods can be complete communities, with families and people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and with a variety of employment, goods, services, and transit accessible to all residents.

Austin neighborhoods must continually evolve with the changing needs of the City, and we recognize such natural change presents opportunities to improve our neighborhoods. Accordingly, we support the kinds of changes that will enhance the affordability, inclusivity, connectivity, mobility, and quality of life in our neighborhoods.

It is good to see some folks tackling some of the issues (e.g. how to regulate and charge for the use of public right of way) from the point of view of an economist; it helps us to understand the actual effects of policies and regulations.


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@Phil_Wiley and @mdahmus: Towards your point, if this becomes a FAN resolution, I would suggest we simply take away the 3-2-1 verbiage and instead say something like “allow more vehicles when usage of existing fleet is above a minimal threshold.”

@josiahstevenson Regarding cost burden: the actual cost burden to the city is pretty much self-imposed. If they set complicated regulations, the burden is high; if they set simple regulations, the burden will be lower. There are some much less easy to quantify burdens on the general public that the regulations are trying to get at: blockages of pedestrian paths, aesthetics, etc.

@josiahstevenson Regarding real-time basis: good idea. Will incorporate.

@rcauvin I don’t actually believe that they aren’t allowed to operate outside the DAPCZ. However: 1) without receiving any additional units, it’s logistically difficult to cover a large area – the vehicles would simply be spread too thin to be useful as a transportation mode; 2) as ATD has extraordinary power in the emergency rules to essentially change the rules however they want, whenever they want, the companies are trying to work with not only the letter of the rules, but the intent, and they have all interpreted the intent to be that the first 500 units operate within the DAPCZ.

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