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Peter’s Take: More Thoughts on Arlington’s Dockless Vehicle Pilot

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In my dockless vehicle column last month, I noted that Arlington County Transportation spokesperson Eric Baillet had told ARLnow that “county government plans a [dockless vehicle pilot] framework for County Board review in September.” Board member John Vihstadt stated he’d be “broadly receptive to clearing the way for more dockless vehicles to become available around Arlington.”

I then suggested that Arlington familiarize itself with the details of the dockless vehicle pilot programs already begun or completed in other localities, citing Washington D.C., and Denver as examples.

Although I don’t agree with all its features, the Denver dockless vehicle pilot program has addressed many of the issues that Arlington is likely to face. Arlington should focus particularly on how Denver has handled those issues.

Arlington’s dockless vehicle pilot program should adopt these features

Each dockless vehicle permit holder should be required to:

  • provide indemnification, liability, and insurance coverages similar to Denver’s
  • provide a unique vehicle identifier on each vehicle
  • adopt an equity program, as in Denver, by submitting a plan outlining how its services will be available to those without smart phones
  • have each user sign a form providing critical information (e.g., “rules of the road”, including “do’s and don’ts” regarding where and where not to operate the dockless vehicle, and where and where not to leave the dockless vehicle after the user finishes)

Note that the Denver rules of the road prohibit the use of E-scooters in bike lanes. I believe that all dockless vehicles, including E-scooters, should be permitted to use bike lanes.

  • share certain categories of data with Arlington

The Denver data-sharing requirements include but are not limited to: utilization rates; total downloads, active users & repeat user information; total trips by day of week, time of day; origin & destination information for all trips; trips per bike by day of week, time of day; average trip distance; incidents of bike theft and vandalism; complaints; accident/crash information.

  • pay a dockless vehicle permit fee

The Denver dockless vehicle permit fee schedule seems fair and reasonable:

  1. Bicycles/E-Bicycles: application fee: $150 per permit application; permit fee: $15,000; performance bond: $20 per vehicle deployed
  2. E-scooters/Other Approved Dockless Vehicles: application fee: $150 per permit application; permit fee: $15,000; performance bond: $30 per vehicle deployed

In any event, the permit fee schedule that Arlington adopts for its pilot program should represent Arlington County’s best estimate of amounts sufficient fully to recapture all costs which the County might incur to retrieve dockless vehicles left in locations that are prohibited on the form that each user has to sign.

Conclusion

Quite a few of the other pilot programs include regulatory features that I believe Arlington should reject — at least when it comes to choosing the final regulatory framework after the pilot program ends.

For example, for that final regulatory framework, Arlington County staff should not be picking, choosing, or limiting to any arbitrary number:

  • how many dockless vehicle permit holders there are
  • how many bikes and/or scooters each dockless vehicle permit holder can operate
  • how many total bikes and/or scooters all dockless vehicle permit holders can operate

The marketplace should sort that out over time.

Dockless vehicles have great potential, but also pose significant risks. Arlington should adopt a pilot program (and regulatory framework) that maximizes the potential and minimizes the risks.

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