Responding to input from thousands of Portlanders, the Portland Bureau of Transportation today announced new measures to improve public safety and protect City parks as part of a one-year pilot program that could have shared electric scooters (e-scooters) return to Portland streets by late April.
The Shared Electric Scooter Pilot Program starts April 26 and lasts until April 26, 2020. It follows a 120-day pilot program in 2018 that showed e-scooters have the potential to help reduce congestion and pollution. But it also raised concerns about people riding e-scooter on sidewalks, in violation of state traffic laws, creating conflict with people walking and people with disabilities.
Following the one-year pilot program, PBOT will evaluate the program and engage the public to develop recommendations for permanent rules for shared e-scooter use for the City Council to consider.
“Thank you to the thousands of community members who shared their feedback during the first pilot, particularly Disability Rights Oregon. Illegal e-scooter use on sidewalks and irresponsible parking came through loud and clear as the most prevalent problems with the program,” said Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “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.”
"With good data, we can make good decisions," said Interim Transportation Director Chris Warner. "Our comprehensive data requirements helped show that e-scooters eliminated thousands of car trips last year. In Portland, e-scooter companies will find a combination of penalties and potential incentives that will reward their efforts to create innovative solutions that reduce conflict between e-scooter users and people who walk or use mobility devices on our sidewalks."
Monday, PBOT published an application form for companies that wish to provide shared e-scooter service in Portland. Applications are due April 9. PBOT anticipates notifying finalists April 18, followed by testing of equipment and technology that could result in e-scooters in operation by April 26.
The 2019 pilot program includes new rules intended to improve public safety, ensure service to East Portland and provide funding for safety improvements:
• Companies could start service this year with a total 2,500 e-scooters citywide among all companies, compared with 2,043 deployed during the 2018 program. Companies may be able to expand their fleets if they follow all regulations and implement innovative programs that help meet city goals, such as eliminating sidewalk riding, eliminating improper parking, generating high ridership in East Portland. By January, PBOT estimates that companies may qualify for incentives that could lead to 9,000 total e-scooters in Portland.
• If all companies qualify for all incentives, Portlanders could see a total 15,000 e-scooters by January. But the bureau’s incentive criteria are ambitious, involving technology that may still need to be developed. The permit also maintains a number of fail-safe measures, including the transportation director's ability to restrict a company's fleet size, suspend a company's permit, or pause the pilot.
• Companies can score higher in the application process if they are able to provide e-scooters with seats, which could provide a more comfortable transportation option for more people. They may also score higher if they offer e-scooters that can be locked to public bike racks, reducing incidents of e-scooters parked blocking sidewalks and ADA corner ramps.
• Companies will be required to issue notifications, warnings, fines, and account suspensions to users who are not operating e-scooters legally. PBOT regulatory specialists will monitor sidewalks, documenting instances of illegal scooter riding and parking and providing those to the companies. After receiving a warning, e-scooter riders may receive a fine of $50 for riding on sidewalks, or $15 for illegal parking.
• PBOT staff will monitor and audit the companies’ efforts to disincentivize and penalize unsafe rider behavior and respond to public reports of illegal parking.
• Companies will be required to use geofencing technology to prohibit scooter riders from parking in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, including the multiuse path located along the Harbor Wall. Riders will not be able to end a trip in the park and will receive warnings and fines for repeated offenses of abandoning e-scooters in city parks.
A shortage of safe places to ride led many to ride e-scooters on sidewalks in 2018. To make more safe places to ride e-scooters, e-scooter riders will be charged a 25 cent street use fee, and companies will be charged a 5 to 20 cent right-of-way fee to generate funding to build safe places for people to use e-scooters, such as protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways. PBOT learned in the first pilot that where e-scooter users had safe places to ride in the street, sidewalk riding decreased. These investments will also improve safety for people walking, biking or using mobility devices.