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Cities Experiment with Parking Fees to Wrangle Scooters

A three-month pilot program in several cities is charging scooter operators parking fees when the devices go unused. The hope is that the charges will discourage over-deployments of the devices.

Several cities are experimenting with applying fees to parked e-scooters as means of managing the devices and helping to prevent an over-distribution of them on streets.

Omaha, Neb.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Detroit are part of a three-month pilot organized by the parking technology platform Passport to assess parking fees when scooters are not being ridden. The idea behind the effort is to discourage scooter operators from releasing too many of the devices, which could spend most of their time parked on sidewalks.

The goal is not to punish the scooter operators with punitive parking fees, said Dan Gallagher, deputy director for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, but to ensure “the number of scooters in Charlotte are being used appropriately and that we’re not just flooding the market with scooters.”

Many cities opt for a flat fee per scooter — generally several hundred dollars per year. Charlotte does not charge a per-scooter fee and is instead experimenting with the parking fee pilot.

“Charlotte wanted to take a slightly different approach and approach it more from a parking standpoint. So, just like we assess for parking your vehicle in many of our urban parts of Charlotte, through parking pricing, we’re applying that to scooters.”

Charlotte has three scooter providers, each permitted for up to 400 devices.

“As an operator, we have always supported commonsense fleet caps, and believe that the number of scooters on the streets should be proportional to actual usage,” said Beaudry Kock, head of policy initiatives at Spin, one of the scooter operators in Charlotte, in a statement. “Price incentives will give us the tools to more efficiently deploy our vehicles, as well as help cities achieve their mobility policy goals. We look forward to being among the first major micromobility operators to pioneer dynamic parking pricing at scale, and hope such pricing models grow in use as a way to improve parking in general.”

The three scooter companies in Charlotte will provide the parking data to Passport, which processes and assesses the parking fees for the city.

Rates vary, depending on the zone the scooter is parked in. The rates, which can be as little as a few pennies a minute, are used as incentives to encourage scooter placement in areas like transit stops to ensure their availability for transit riders wanting to use a scooter to finish a journey.

“The first 30 minutes [of parking] is free, and if scooter companies position their scooters in appropriate ways, they’re going to have constant turnover,” said Gallagher. “Theoretically, I guess, if every scooter turned over in 30 minutes or less, there would be no charge to the scooter companies.”

Initial feedback “appears to be a model that seems to be making some sense,” Gallagher added. “It’ll help the scooter companies create some efficiencies for themselves.”

Initial data from May showed some 63,000 scooter parking segments, each about 130 minutes long.

Scooter operators can earn parking fee discounts by demonstrating commitments to safety or even keeping the scooters off of sidewalks.

“The goal of our pilot program is to bring city leaders and mobility companies together to create a framework and evaluate pricing models for electric scooter parking that can be applied to a variety of vehicles,” said Bob Youakim, CEO of Passport, in a statement. 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.

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