As the January deadline looms, the Falls Church City Council discussed proposals for e-scooters before state laws take effect and the city loses its chance to create regulations.
Concerns arose at both the Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 City Council meetings, including potential funding issues, underage use, parking and the upcoming pilot program. The pilot program would be limited to two scooter vendors, leaving companies to compete for a one-year trial period, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous said.
If implemented, the program would allow 14 scooters per 1,000 people into city limits. On average, the scooters would cost users $1 to unlock and a $0.25 per-minute fee, according to statistics gathered from Arlington and Alexandria.
On average 20% of e-scooter users ride them for social or entertainment purposes, while roughly 20% use them for shopping and errands. Another 20% use them to commute to the metro. Scooters could help to solve the first-to-last mile commuter problem, an expert brought in by the City Council and Councilmember Phil Duncan said.
There was some talk at the Oct. 21 meeting about using scooters to raise revenue for the city, by adding on taxes and unlocking fees. The city would charge each vendor an $8,000 permitting fee, regardless of fleet size, according to city documents. But no one seemed to have a concrete answer to the total profits.
“It would be interesting to see how much we can get out of it without impacting the demand,” Litkenhous said.
Councilmember Dave Snyder took another perspective, saying that it might cost the city more money. He said that police would be distracted by monitoring people, ensuring they are following laws and guidelines while riding the scooters.
Parking was yet another major focus of the conversations.
Several people suggested corrals, while others said that they encourage people to lean them against polls that are out of the way of pedestrians and cars. All of the councilmembers agreed that measures should be taken to ensure that they are not being left in the way of traffic or parked illegally in yards.
“Parking is going to be one of the major sources of complaints we will get, so we should prepare for that,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said.
Going forward, the Falls Church City Council will continue to discuss potential implementation plans before they make a final decision. At the next City Council meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 12), councilmembers are expected to discuss a first reading of the new ordinance regarding motorized scooters and shared mobility devices.
“I really think the success of this pilot is going to hinge on good communication,” Hardi said. “Lowering the bar to explain this won’t be perfect, [but] is important.”
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