Transportation

With Pilot Coming to a Close, E-Scooter Companies Lobby to Stay in Portland, Ore.

Bird, Lime and Skip are asking officials to let them stick around past the close of a four-month trial period, but the city seems to be holding firmly against the idea.

by Andrew Theen, The Oregonian / November 15, 2018

(TNS) — Three electric scooter companies have asked Portland not to go cold turkey on the two-wheeled transportation craze during Thanksgiving week.

Nov. 20 is the end of the line for Portland’s four-month trial. But the three e-scooter companies with legal permits to operate in the city – Skip, Lime and Bird – believe things are going too well to pull the plug. The companies cite the scooters’ popularity, the economic benefit to local residents and the fact scooter-riders are helping Portland achieve its climate goals by encouraging car-free transportation as reasons to keep scooters on city streets.

“Lime remains committed to this community until our last day of operation -- we hope that day isn’t next week,” Jeremy Nelson, Lime’s general manager in Portland said in an email.

But the city says thanks but no thanks. All scooters will be gone Nov. 20.

That’s always been the case,” said John Brady, Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman. “We’ve always been really clear about that.”

Bird and Lime submitted letters to Portland transportation leaders and City Council offices asking for an extension. Skip, the third e-scooter company with a permit under the four-month program, has also asked city leaders to reconsider the permit timeline. The companies tried to drum up positive comments from users in the past week, and city officials say they received more than 600 because of the company’s efforts.

According to Lime’s letter, 30 people have full-time jobs in Portland because of the scooter trial. Those employees have pulled in a collective $275,000 in wages so far. Another $230,000 has gone to so-called juicers who charge the scooters overnight.

Lime also argued that by ending the pilot, Portlanders who have changed their commuting habits “will be disadvantaged.”

Mario Sandler, Bird’s senior manager for government partnerships, wrote a letter Tuesday calling the pilot “tremendously successful.” Birds estimates it has set aside $46,000 to give to the city for bike lanes, and it estimated it had paid 700 Portlanders a collective $413,000 for charging its scooters.

As of Nov. 8, the companies had logged 643,417 trips since first hitting city streets this summer. The average length of a ride was 1.2 miles, and scooters registered 745,729 miles on Portland streets.

Brady said the city will continue to gather data on the scooter pilot and hopes to issue a full report early next year. That report will guide future plans to bring scooters to Portland permanently, if the city’s political and transportation leaders see fot.

“We need to assess what we’re finding,” he said of the data. “We need to hear more from Portlanders, all of their experiences, both positive and negative.”

The transportation bureau announced later Tuesday that it fined Skip $9,000 in penalties for not providing at least 100 scooters in East Portland and for violating a requirement to have at least 90 percent of the company’s scooter fleet deployed each day during the pilot program.

©2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.