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Denver’s new electric scooter pilot may complement mass transit

Scooter stations could be positioned near bus and light rail stops

Bird scooters announced that it will apply for a permit to operate in Denver, after the city announced details of proposed regulations for the rapidly expanding new transit option.

Denver, another city wrestling with the question of what to do with the influx of dockless electric scooters on its streets, announced plans to develop a pilot program aiming to test how the newest mobility craze integrates with existing mass transit systems.

According to the Denver Post, the program, which is still in development, would work through the city’s existing Transit Amenities Program, which allows for the use of mobility technology at transit sites such as bus and light rail stops. In theory, it would utilize the new transit option as a way to expand the effectiveness of the city’s growing transit system and advance its mobility plan.

“As Denver continues to grow, it is critically important for us to encourage greater use of multimodal transportation options to reduce vehicle congestion,” said Eulois Cleckley, Executive Director of Denver Public Works. “We believe dockless technology has the potential to provide people with first-mile and last-mile links between their homes, destinations and public transit hubs more easily.”

This proposed pilot comes on the heels of announcements by Santa Monica, California, and San Francisco, which have released their own plans for testing and regulating scooters.

These city-initiated pilot programs for scooters and dockless transit options may be a sign cities are finally beginning to catch up with transit startups, which often entered markets before any regulations were in place, and trying to steer the development of transit technology. Santa Monica’s plan in particular details the arrangement between cities and these startups as an “open and productive partnership,” and will evaluate these companies on criteria including data-sharing and public safety advocacy and compliance.

Denver plans to unveil the new pilot by June 29 and allow operators to apply for permits. Bird, a scooter startup now seeking a $2 billion valuation, and its competitor, Lime, intend to apply for a permit.

On Monday, the city’s Department of Public Works ordered scooter companies to remove their vehicles from city streets for two weeks as officials figure out the details of the pilot program.

The details of Denver’s proposed scooter regulation regime suggest the city is trying to utilize the new mobility option as a way to improve urban transportation, while balancing issues of public safety and sidewalk regulation. Ever since the scooters suddenly appeared on city streets on May 25, local officials have been fielding complaints from residents and trying to figure out what to do about the hundreds of new vehicles on city streets and sidewalks.

Advocates see scooters as a way to reduce car-centric transportation and emissions while encouraging support of multimodal transit options and infrastructure.