Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Amazon Signs Another Lease in Crystal City — “Amazon.com Inc. has tacked on another block of space to its planned footprint at National Landing, less than a month after executing its first set of leases and purchase agreements with JBG Smith Properties for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Beyer Endorses Buttigieg — “Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg picked up his first endorsement from a member of Congress on Wednesday when Rep. Don Beyer from Virginia announced his support for the South Bend, Indiana, mayor.” [CNN]

County Scooter Pilot May Be Extended — “Though scheduled to come to an end in June, Arlington officials could extend through the summer months a pilot program allowing motorized scooters across the county – while potentially imposing additional regulations in the interim.” [InsideNova]

Soros Funding Stamos Challenger — “A political action committee funded by Democratic mega­donor and billionaire George Soros has made large contributions to two upstart progressive candidates attempting to unseat Democratic prosecutors in Northern Virginia primary races.” [Washington Post]

Airports Authority Mulling New HQ — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering moving its headquarters to a potential development on the Reagan National Airport footprint as part of a larger plan to accommodate Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters in Arlington County.” [Washington Business Journal]

New CMO, CFO for Arlington Startup — “Snag today announced key appointments to the senior executive team as the company continues to expand its online marketplace for hourly workers and employers.” [PR Newswire]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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Morning Notes

Woman Injured When Scooter’s Brakes Fail — “An Arlington, Virginia, woman says she had to jump off of an electric scooter moving 15 mph to avoid oncoming traffic because the rented scooter’s brakes weren’t working.” [NBC 4]

Could Goody’s Challenge Sign Rules? — Goody’s restaurant in Clarendon painted over its outdoor mural after running afoul of Arlington’s sign ordinance, but one attorney says a 2015 Supreme Court ruling may point to an avenue to challenge the county’s regulations. [Reason]

Refugees Get Car from Arlington Diocese — “A Catholic family fleeing religious persecution in their native Pakistan [received] a car Monday in Arlington.” [WUSA 9]

Tornado Drill Today in Va. — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Virginia is conducting its annual statewide tornado drill today at 9:45 a.m. [Virginia DEM, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Yet another company is now offering dockless electric scooters around Arlington, as Bolt has now becomes the seventh firm operating in the county.

Bolt first began renting out its scooters in Arlington last Wednesday (Feb. 27), county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow. Like its six other competitors, the company is participating in the county’s pilot program for dockless vehicle providers, which is set to run through the summer and help Arlington officials determine the best way to regulate the technology.

February was a busy month for scooter companies in Arlington, with three winning the county’s approval for participating in the program in the last few weeks alone: Skip, Spin and Jump.

Bird kicked off the flood of scooters onto county streets this past summer, when it dropped hundreds of devices around the county. That prompted the County Board to sketch out a more formal pilot program to guide the process, clearing the way for Lime, Lyft and the others to follow suit.

Under the terms of the pilot, the companies are restricted to operating 350 vehicles for their first month in the county, and can then apply for gradual increases each month (so long as they can meet certain ridership targets).

Thus far, county officials haven’t recorded many problems with the scooters, though they remain a bit vexed in how to dissuade younger riders from using them or how to enforce the county’s ban on the scooters on local trails and sidewalks.

The pilot program is set to wrap up in July, when the Board will subsequently consider passing a formal ordinance governing the devices.

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Arlington now has its sixth dockless electric scooter company: Skip.

The San Francisco-based firm was just approved to start operating its vehicles in the county under Arlington’s pilot program this week, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow.

Skip CEO Sanjay Dastoor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his plans for the county, but Balliet says the company has been cleared to deploy 350 scooters around Arlington — that’s the minimum number of vehicles the county is allowing firms to operate in the area upon first joining the pilot, which the County Board crafted this fall as a way to test out the best methods for managing dockless devices.

Skip has been eyeing Arlington for an expansion dating back to this summer, when Bird became the first scooter company to drop its scooters in the county.

The company also told county officials it was planning to offer scooters in both Arlington and D.C. this fall, and it now joins Bird, Lime, Lyft, Spin and Jump in renting out dockless vehicles around the county.

Spin just started offering its scooters around Arlington, while Jump will do so sometime in the next few weeks.

The county’s pilot is set to run through this summer. Once it wraps up, officials will have to consider the best way to craft permanent regulations for the scooters, and will likely be helped along by a new state bill making its way through the General Assembly.

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E-scooters have been proliferating around Arlington over the past few months, but their growing ubiquity has brought with it some challenges.

A new public service announcement from Arlington County seeks to answer some key questions that can improve safety for scooter riders and those around them: Who can ride e-scooters? How can you ride safely? Where do you park after riding?

The video is above. The county has also set up its own website for dockless scooter safety and regulation information.

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Two more companies are planning to bring their dockless scooters and e-bikes to Arlington in the coming days.

Spin will soon be dropping its electric scooters around the county, while Jump will offer both e-bikes and scooters in Arlington. Both companies currently operate in D.C.

Ariella Steinhorn, a Spin spokeswoman, told ARLnow that the company’s scooters will be available for Arlingtonians to rent starting Friday (Feb. 8).

Jump has told local officials that they will follow suit “within the next few weeks,” according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans.

The companies will become the fourth and fifth firms to offer dockless vehicles in the county when they arrive, joining Bird, Lime and Lyft. All of the companies are participating in a pilot program set up by the County Board last fall, allowing firms to deploy hundreds of the devices around Arlington through the end of the tentative test period this summer.

The county generally hasn’t recorded too many problems with the suddenly ubiquitous scooters thus far, outside of some scattered accidents and concerns about younger riders using the devices when they shouldn’t be.

State lawmakers are also currently hard at work crafting legislation to allow localities to set additional regulations for the vehicles once similar pilot programs end.

Both of the new firms are owned by much larger companies — the ridesharing service Uber owns Jump, while Ford recently acquired Spin.

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New legislation working its way through the General Assembly could set new state standards around dockless scooters and e-bikes, giving localities like Arlington full authority to ban the vehicles on sidewalks and regulate where they’re parked.

A bill from Del. Todd Pillion (R-4th District) unanimously cleared the House of Delegates Monday (Feb. 4), setting the stage for state lawmakers to pass their first regulations governing the devices since they began popping up in Arlington and other urban communities around the state last summer.

The legislation shouldn’t change much about the county’s current dockless vehicle pilot program, which the County Board created last fall to set new standards guiding the use of the suddenly ubiquitous scooters. But the bill would codify into state law many of the regulations the county has already created as part of the program.

Perhaps most notably, the legislation would allow people to ride scooters and e-bikes on sidewalks, unless a local ordinance specifically bans the practice. The county has barred scooters from both sidewalks and trails as part of the pilot, and this bill would allow Arlington to take the next step and pass its own law doing so once the program wraps up.

“Under this, we can have the ability to adopt an ordinance that takes care of all of our specific issues,” said Pat Carroll, the county’s main lobbyist in Richmond, during a Jan. 29 House committee hearing on the bill.

The legislation also bars scooter and e-bike riders from parking the vehicles “in a manner that impedes the normal movement of pedestrian or other traffic or 456 where such parking is prohibited by official traffic control devices,” another key headache for county officials. Arlington staff have set up some “scooter corrals” around Metro stations to encourage the orderly parking of the devices, but otherwise don’t have the ability to enforce where the vehicles are parked beyond bringing complaints to each company individually.

The legislation also caps all scooters at a top speed of 20 miles per hour — Arlington currently mandates a speed cap of 10 miles per hour, which initially irked some owners of the vehicles who’d hoped to use a 15-miles-per-hour cap instead.

Finally, the bill gives other localities until Jan. 1, 2020 to set up their own pilot programs for the dockless devices — once that date passes, companies will be able to deploy the scooters and bikes without abiding by any sort of pilot, much as Bird did when it dropped its scooters in Arlington back in June.

In general, the scooter companies seemed broadly pleased with the legislation. Lobbyists for several dockless vehicle companies spoke in support of it at the Jan. 29 committee hearing, and the firms were certainly well represented in Richmond — state records show that Bird has hired five lobbyists on its behalf, while Lime has three, Lyft has two and Uber (which owns Jump scooters) has six.

“We know for a lot of folks it’s a complicated issue around a new and emerging technology and we look forward to continuing to work with all legislators and stakeholders,” said Ryan O’Toole, a lobbyist representing Lime.

The legislation now heads to the state Senate, where lawmakers have until the end of session on Feb. 23 to take action on the bill.

Should it clear that hurdle and head to the governor’s desk, it’s anyone’s guess who will be waiting to sign it — Gov. Ralph Northam is still facing an overwhelming chorus of voices calling on him to resign over revelations that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook page, while new allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax complicate any designs he might have on the governorship.

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Arlington has now created seven “scooter corrals” around the county, in a bid to make the storage of the pervasive dockless electric vehicles a bit more orderly.

County workers set up the new storage spaces over the course of the last week, generally using some spray paint to cordon off specific areas for the scooters.

Officials have been considering such a step dating back to this fall, when the scooters first started popping up around Arlington and concerns about where the vehicles might be scattered began cropping up. Other cities, from Austin to Santa Monica, have adopted a similar technique.

The corrals are mostly clustered around Metro stops, as that’s where many riders first pick up the scooters. Per the county website, locations include:

Ballston

N. Stuart Street & 9th Street N.

Courthouse

Clarendon Blvd & N. Uhle Street

Crystal City

18th Street S. & S. Bell Street

Pentagon City

S. Hayes Street & 12th Street S.

Rosslyn

N. Lynn Street & Fairfax Drive
N. Lynn Street & 19th Street N.

Virginia Square

N. Monroe St & 9th Street N.

George Mason University has set up a similar “corral” near its Virginia Square campus, after briefly trying to establish a “no scooter zone” in the area (drawing fierce criticism from students and staff alike).

Bird, Lime and Lyft all currently offer electric scooters in the county, with a variety of other dockless companies eyeing Arlington, given the county’s pilot program to test the devices.

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Lime, which currently operates rental electric scooters in Arlington, is expanding its local service to include powered bicycles.

The company, which says it’s the “largest shared bike and scooter provider in the U.S.,” announced today that it’s bringing e-bike service to Arlington and northern Bethesda, Md.

“To make clear its commitment to each county, Lime is deploying 150 new electric bikes to Arlington County this week on top of 350 scooters that were already in operation locally,” the company said in a press release, below. “Lime is the only electric bike provider in both counties and these additions help ensure riders in both counties can ride safely and efficiently and find dependable transportation options to reach their destinations.”

Arlington County prohibits the use of e-bikes on local trails, a rule that Priceline pitchman and Star Trek star William Shatner called “barbaric” in a Twitter exchange with Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

More from Lime:

Lime, the largest shared bike and scooter provider in the U.S. plans, announced that it is expanding service by adding electric bikes this week to its fleets in Arlington County, VA and in North Bethesda, MD.

“We could not be more excited for the opportunity to expand our electric bike presence in Arlington and Montgomery Counties to provide riders in both counties with more accessible, affordable mobility options. Lime has relished integrating ourselves into both counties and the region and working with county, city, state and community leadership to best fill each county’s unique transportation needs,” said Sean Arroyo, General Manager for Lime.

To make clear its commitment to each county, Lime is deploying 150 new electric bikes to Arlington County this week on top of 350 scooters that were already in operation locally. Similarly, Lime is deploying 175 new additional electric bikes in North Bethesda, MD today on top of the 75 existing e-bikes already in the county in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Lime is the only electric bike provider in both counties and these additions help ensure riders in both counties can ride safely and efficiently and find dependable transportation options to reach their destinations.

As part of its effort to make bikes and scooters available to underserved communities, Lime also offers Lime Access, an affordability program, to improve transportation access for all Lime Access riders can unlock any Lime product without a smartphone or purchase Lime credit with cash in partnership with PayNearMe, and receive a 50 percent discount on every ride.

Lime is also investing more than $3 million to help empower people to exhibit safe and responsible riding behaviors as part of its “Respect the Ride” campaign. The campaign includes a community pledge and helmet distribution, product enhancement, safety brand ambassador program, ad campaign, and dedicated Trust, Education, and Safety team. Lime has already given away more than 50,000 free helmets, and over the next six months, Lime will be distributing a total of over 250,000 free helmets to riders across the globe.

Additionally, Lime is continuing to develop features that promote safe riding and encourage riders to use safe and responsible riding behavior. In-app, Lime added safety tutorials and ID scanning in select cities.

Lime also launched a “Lime Green” initiative to ensure all scooter and e-bike rides globally will be carbon neutral.  As part of Lime Green, the company will purchase renewable energy credits from both new and existing projects for the electricity used to charge its fleet of bikes and electric scooters. The company will also buy carbon offsets to account for the local operations and management of its fleet.

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Morning Notes

Icy Conditions on N. Glebe Road — The northbound lanes of N. Glebe Road are closed at Military Road “for an unknown amount of time” due to icy conditions. [Twitter]

County Board Member is Pregnant — Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and her husband Steve are expecting their first child in May. [Twitter]

Long-Time APS Employee Dies — Charles Weber, a World War II veteran who “worked for Arlington County Public Schools for thirty-seven years and served as Principal of Swanson Junior High School and Stratford Junior High School,” has died at the age of 91. [Dignity Memorial]

Scooter Trips > Bikeshare Trips — “In October, when Arlington, Va.’s scooter pilot began, there were 69,189 Bird and Lime scooter trips for 75,425 total miles traveled with Bird and Lime. Meanwhile, Capital Bikeshare – routinely and still considered a success, with lots more potential – had 26,532 total trips in Arlington in October.” [Mobility Labs, Twitter]

Growing Number of $200K+ Earners in Arlington — “If there’s one place in America that doesn’t need a helping hand from Jeff Bezos, it could be [Arlington and the D.C. suburbs]. The Washington commuter area is home to four of the top 10 (Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6) fastest-growing census tracts of high earners.” [Bloomberg]

Conspiracy Theorists Eye Cemetery — “QAnon believers have become convinced the deep-state cabal has a bunker under Arlington Cemetery, connected to a tunnel running straight to Comet Ping Pong.” [Twitter]

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The ridesharing company Lyft is now offering its dockless electric scooters around Arlington, making it the third firm to offer the vehicles in the county.

Lyft announced that its scooters will be available in Arlington starting today (Monday), less than two months after the company brought dockless scooters to D.C. Anyone looking for a scooter rather than a driver simply needs to select the option in the bottom left corner of the Lyft app.

Chris Dattaro, market manager for Lyft Bikes and Scooters in D.C., told ARLnow that the company will start off with about 200 scooters in the county, and gradually ramp up its offerings from there. County leaders signed off on a pilot program governing dockless vehicles this fall that allows companies to operate a maximum of 350 scooters or bikes right away, then apply for 50-vehicle increases each month.

“We know Arlington is its own ecosystem, but also that people go between Arlington and D.C. all the time, so we’re excited to connect them together,” Dattaro said.

Dattaro says Lyft’s scooters will primarily be “centered around public transit and where people live, work, and go out,” following a similar strategy to the other companies already operating in Arlington: Bird and Lime.

“Our passengers will tell us if we need to add more in other locations,” Dattaro said. “It’s a continuous learning process.”

Dattaro added that the process of applying to operate in Arlington has been a relatively straightforward one thus far, and the company has been working closely with county officials for weeks now. Though the other companies in the county have chafed a bit at the 10-mile-an-hour speed limit for the scooters included as a condition of the pilot, Dattaro says Lyft has had no trouble complying with that standard.

“We want to focus on being good partners with our regulators,” Dattaro said.

Arlington officials expect that as many as 10 dockless vehicle companies could someday operate in the county. Skip has frequently expressed interest in Arlington, as has Jump, which could offer electric bikes and scooters in the area as soon as January.

The county’s pilot program is set to wrap up next summer, as officials prepare a raft of new policies and ordinances to govern the vehicles.

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