Electric scooters are pushing closer and closer to Seattle. Tacoma, Redmond, Bothell, Everett, and Spokane have been zipping around on the e-scooters for months now. Soon, White Center will (fingers crossed) get added to that list.
King County Council Member Joe McDermott put forward legislation Tuesday to get a 12-month scooter pilot rolling in White Center. If McDermott has his way—and he's feeling optimistic that the rest of the KCC will be receptive to getting some scooters on the ground—White Center will be e-scootin' by November, he told The Stranger. His legislation passed the transportation committee today 6-0 and is headed for the full council.
McDermott, a self-described scooter enthusiast, sees scooters as a way to achieve more links for first and last-mile connections and increasing mobility. He's ridden them all over—from commuting to dinner in Santa Monica to sightseeing in Copenhagen—to get around in a number of different circumstances.
Picking White Center was an intentional move. "It’s important to have a pilot program in this neighborhood in a diverse community so that we're making sure we don’t leave anyone out," McDermott said. "The app will be in multiple languages, there will be a means for people who are unbanked to use scooters, and outreach to the broader communities."
The program will last a year "to be inclusive of all seasons in Seattle." There will be two check-ins at six months and nine months. If, after the year is up, KCC wants to move forward with permanent scooter-share then they will base all the tweaks and changes needed to cement the program on the nine-month check-in. That means there will be no lag time between the pilot and the permanent program—which is not typical. Portland's four-month pilot ended in November 2018 and its current year-long pilot started in April. Spokane's pilot ended in late 2018 and their permanent program started up in May of this year. According to Lime spokesperson Jonathan Hopkins, "both Portland and Spokane wish their programs didn't take a break."
"If it works well I don’t want to build in an automatic cease and restart the program," McDermott said. "If it’s working well I want to continue it seamlessly."
That's best practice, Hopkins said, because with successful scooter pilots come behavior change. According to initial survey data after Portland's four-month pilot, 16 percent of users thought about getting rid of their cars while Portland had scooters. Six percent actually did.
"Having a pilot then taking a break has an impact on those who have already changed their behavior," Hopkins said.
The companies for the pilot program haven't been picked. Two companies will be selected but they will have to apply. Currently, only Lime operates e-scooters in Washington state. If the pilot does launch, the scooters will probably be geo-fenced so that they can't operate outside the green-lit area.
McDermott is hoping to get the pilot jumpstarted this fall but that all depends upon the legislative timeline. My gut instinct was to worry that scooters launching in November or December wouldn't be used. "Would the weather impact scooters?" I asked.
"Do you go to work when it's raining?" McDermott responded wryly.
"Me too. I also go get Full Tilt ice cream when it's raining." McDermott said. The scooters will launch rain or shine if the legislation passes. If it does, then White Center will just keep on getting cooler.
Meanwhile, Seattle may pull together a pilot program by spring 2020. Though Mayor Durkan made a big show of finally allowing a pilot this past May, after about a year of flat-out no's, there has been minimal progress made to actually launch the thing. Most recently, in late August, the city announced a "robust public engagement process." You can email any and all thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.