Abel Pacheco, the Seattle City Council member appointed to fill Rob Johnson's vacated District 4 seat, has made it his mission to get e-scooters in Seattle before his tenure is up in November.
"I've made my desires and intentions very clear to the mayor and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) about doing the pilot sooner than later and wanting to see it be successful," Pacheco told The Stranger.
After a year of rejecting even the possibility of putting e-scooters on Seattle streets, Mayor Jenny Durkan declared in May that Seattle would try out a scooter pilot. The process is slow going.
"I’m concerned that the timeline is February," Pacheco said, "And February is when we had a snowstorm in Seattle."
February??? To launch scooters??? No one wants to leave their house in February. Bike-share bikes were bike-share snowmen for two weeks this past February. Those bike-share pilots had the luxury of starting in summer. Delaying a scooter launch until the dead of winter would make a pilot program fall flat on its face.
"If you want to do a pilot, I'm saying let’s get the scooters on the ground from spring through fall," Pacheco said. "We'll learn the lessons and pull them back in the winter. We experience pretty bad winters to have scooters be successful then."
If it comes down to a February launch, which Pacheco is trying his hardest to prevent, I will take to the rain-soaked streets. I will scoot rain, sleet, snow, or shine. Give us scooters or give us another viable last-mile solution, damn it! This doesn't have to take this long. And having it launch then seems almost like an intentional setup for failure.
Durkan's opinion on scooters is not a secret. She thinks they're dangerous and flatly resisted implementing them in Seattle. Somehow she caved. But even so, she declared the pilot program with an overly cautious begrudging op-ed in GeekWire. The mayor's office has not responded to a request for comment.
Currently, the pilot does not have a clear path forward. Pacheco said that SDOT is determining whether they will conduct a full State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. He's hoping it doesn't come to that. An SDOT spokesperson said that they "won't be doing an environmental impact statement for the scooter-share program [but] we'll likely do an environmental review of some sort."
While SDOT works on that literal first step to this process, Pacheco and Mike O'Brien are asking them "to come back with a plan that would provide up to 3,000 multi-model parking spaces by the end of 2020," Pacheco said. Those would be on-street parking corrals for bikes and scooters that would prevent sidewalk clutter.
It's August. If the pilot plods along at Durkan's pace, that gives us another five scooter-less months. A depressing reality. Bothell, Redmond, Tacoma, and Spokane are all enjoying their pilot programs. Everett just announced that e-scooters are there to stay after their pilot.
"I’m hopeful that we can get something going soon," Pacheco said. "I have a meeting with the mayor on Monday. Her office can make things move a lot faster, obviously, with her support."
Then he texted me a picture of the e-scooters he had in his office.
"I’m trying to provide the internal pressure in awareness of how important it is to provide mobility options for people who don’t have a car and who want to move around the city," he said.