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How Dockless Scooters Have Impacted Washington, D.C.07:08
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A man rides an electric scooter on the street of downtown Washington D.C. on June 21, 2018. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)
A man rides an electric scooter on the street of downtown Washington D.C. on June 21, 2018. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)
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Some cities have banned dockless, electric scooters, but others have welcomed the emerging mode of transportation. Washington, D.C., is experimenting with the scooters.

With five companies offering these vehicles and each company capped at 400 vehicles each, Jeff Marootian, director of the city's Department of Transportation, says this has introduced a significant change, "one that provides a new mobility opportunity."

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Marootian (@DDOTDCDirector) about how it's going.

Interview Highlights

On how the new vehicles are being used, and the reactions to them

“We currently have upwards of 2,000 dockless vehicles, both bikes and scooters combined.

“We launched a pilot program about a year ago to allow these companies to demonstrate the technology here in Washington, D.C. … We've gotten a lot of feedback about their use, and certainly there are several people who have really begun to use these as a part of their daily commuting experience and others who are using them for periodic trips.

“We've seen different types of trips. In some cases, they are short distances, in some cases, they are longer-connection distances, getting to and from Metro stations for example.”

On complaints of bikes and scooters being left on sidewalks, clogging streets

“This is something that we heard very early on during the demonstration period, and it's something that we took very seriously in working with the companies to ensure that they were enforcing our rules and regulations and that their rules and regulations and terms of use were reflective of those things. That has become something that we're working very closely to enforce, and we see the incidents of those things decreasing.”

On the city’s relationship with the companies

“We have been working with them to collect data and information and also to report problems that we hear from members of the public here in Washington, D.C., and so we have opened a line of communication with them to ensure that we're sharing information and that they are sharing information with us.”

"All forms of transportation come with inherent risks, and so we're working, in this case, with these companies specifically, to ensure that they are promoting the safest possible use."

Jeff Marootian

On a man who was struck and killed by an SUV while riding one of the scooters in the city

“D.C. is a city that is committed to ‘Vision Xero,’ which is a strategy that, under the leadership of our mayor, we have put in place to eliminate roadway fatalities and serious injuries, and we're doing everything that we can, taking it very seriously, to work with the technology companies that are here, to ensure that their rules and regulations are followed by their users. We're also taking a number of steps to ensure that we're building the safest possible infrastructure.

“All forms of transportation come with inherent risks, and so we're working, in this case, with these companies specifically, to ensure that they are promoting the safest possible use for their users and that we are informing the public about about this new form of technology.”

On the city’s helmet laws

“The law in D.C. for helmets is limited to individuals who are 16 or under. Some of the companies, as you may know, do give away helmets — they strongly incentivize riders to use helmets — and that's something that I think companies are thinking about as this technology moves forward.”

On what the city is discovering from the data collected on the vehicles

“It's very early to tell what the impacts will be overall to commuting patterns and to traveling and to trips taken. That's really why we have decided to do this in an incremental approach to allow a capped number of these vehicles on the street to observe their use patterns, but also to really dive deep into the data to get a better understanding of how the public is interacting with them.”

"Under the leadership of our mayor, Muriel Bowser, it's something that we have embraced, but have done so in a very incremental way."

Jeff Marootian

On how new modes of transportation have been received by residents

“I'm glad that you mentioned Uber and Lyft, because there was a time when that technology first emerged and came into the market that people were asking a lot of the same types of questions that we are now asking about dockless bikes and scooters. This is a significant change. It's one that provides a new mobility opportunity, and under the leadership of our mayor, Muriel Bowser, it's something that we have embraced, but have done so in a very incremental way to ensure that the technology is utilized in a safe way for the residents and visitors of the District of Columbia.”

This segment aired on October 23, 2018.

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