City of Austin expects to see more dockless vehicles used for longer trips in 2020

New dockless vehicles, such as Revel mopeds, have entered the Austin market, in addition to electric scooters, pictured here in West Campus. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)
New dockless vehicles, such as Revel mopeds, have entered the Austin market, in addition to electric scooters, pictured here in West Campus. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)

New dockless vehicles, such as Revel mopeds, have entered the Austin market, in addition to electric scooters, pictured here in West Campus. (Emma Freer/Community Impact Newspaper)

When electric scooters first arrived in Austin in April 2018, residents and city officials alike raised concerns about regulations, safety and inconvenience.

Today, they are a widely used resource—there were more than 5 million electric scooter trips in the city of Austin in 2019, according to the transportation department—and new vehicles capable of longer trips are entering the market.

Jacob Culberson, mobility services division manager for the transportation department, said he expects micro-mobility operators to debut more robust vehicles that can hold a longer charge and serve a wider audience, including residents with disabilities.

In November, Revel launched in Austin with 1,000 electric mopeds. That same month, Ford Motor began mapping the city of Austin, where it will launch its autonomous commercial vehicles in 2021.

Culberson expects existing operators to follow suit.


“It’s great to see all of these companies trying to fill those holes that pop up and may exist,” he said.

Meanwhile, the transportation department will make recommendations to Austin City Council on ways to improve micro-mobility regulations early this year.

These recommendations are informed by efforts undertaken in 2019 by various city departments, including a pilot program to study scooter use on trails and parkland and an epidemiological study of scooter-related injuries conducted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Amanda Ross, natural resources division manager for the parks and recreation department, presented the results of the pilot program the parks and recreation board Dec. 3.

“Really, what came out of it was that the speed and etiquette associated with bikes on our trails, particularly multiuse trails, was a big concern, and not just this new technology option [i.e. scooters],” Ross said.

While the pilot program results show riders continue to use scooters on prohibited parkland, such as the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, Ross said the parks department hopes to wield geofencing technology to prevent scooters from operating in prohibited zones.

Geofencing is a type of speed-override technology designed to discourage illegal scooter use on parkland, according to the transportation department. In March, geofencing technology enabled scooter companies to slow their vehicles to a maximum speed of eight miles per hour on The University of Texas campus. In September, its use expanded to unpaved park trails, where scooters are prohibited.

The transportation department also recommended revising its responsible riding ordinance to allow electric scooters on some parkland trails, creating designated parking box areas and setting trail speed limits, according to Ross’ presentation.

Safety remains the transportation department’s top priority, Assistant Director Jason JonMichael said.

According to Dell Seton Medical Center, the hospital saw 109 severe scooter injuries between January and November. These numbers do not reflect less severe scooter injuries.

In February, the city's first scooter-related fatality occurred downtown on the I-35 frontage road.

However, JonMichael said safety is improving as residents grow more comfortable riding and driving alongside scooters and other dockless vehicles.

“It’s a matter of behind-the-wheel miles,” JonMichael said.


MOST RECENT

Screen shot of Dr. Desmar Walkes speaking
Austin ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients, delaying some critical care

Within the past week, there was a waiting list of patients to be transferred into Austin-area ICUs, Austin Public Health leaders said.

The city of Austin this summer cleared four unregulated homeless encampments and shifted dozens of residents into shelters. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house thousands of Austin's homeless people taking shape, but outlook for local success, project funding still unclear

The strategy's first housing benchmark fell short in June, and updates on how the estimated $515 million needed for housing and services will be spent are overdue.

graphic
DATA: How population changed in Texas counties between census counts in 2010, 2020

Texas added nearly four million people between 2010 and 2020, according to the latest Census data.

The 28-story tower is expected to open on West 17th Street in 2023. (Rendering courtesy Rhode Partners)
Luxury mixed-use tower The Linden breaks ground north of Capitol in Central Austin

The 28-story high-rise will feature dozens of luxury residences, including a selection of two-story penthouses.

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission considered a finalized draft of an updated map for Austin's 10 City Council districts Sept. 15. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATED: Draft map of Austin's redrawn City Council boundaries ready for community review

Volunteer city redistricting commissioners have unanimously passed an initial outline to update all 10 City Council districts set to go into effect next year.

Photo of a sign in a field
3 weeks before first weekend, ACL Music Festival awaits permit, final health and safety procedures

Austin City Limits Music Festival has not yet received a permit for its multiweekend music festival, but the city of Austin said this is a normal timeline.

The Austin Transit Partnership approved a $312.8 million budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. (Benton Graham/Community Impact)
Project Connect’s $312.8M budget receives approval for FY 2021-22

The budget will largely be spent on advancing the 30% designs for the Orange and Blue MetroRail lines.

The Davis/White Park trail will be improved through the Neighborhood Partnering Program. (Courtesy Austin Public Works Department)
City of Austin selects 4 neighborhood improvement projects to assist

The Austin Public Works department has helped complete more than 70 local neighborhood improvement projects in the last 10 years.

200 Academy Drive could be redeveloped to bring live music and housing to a South River City neighborhood. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
South River City's historic Austin Opera House property targeted for housing development, music venue revival

If approved, the project could bring a 17,500-square-foot concert hall and dozens of homes to a 4.6-acre site off of South Congress Avenue.

The city Music Commission met Sept. 13 to consider final outlines for the Live Music Fund Event Program and Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund 3.0.
Austin moving closer to sending out millions for live music events, musician recovery

Two upcoming city funding opportunities are being designed to support music industry events and provide emergency stabilization for those in the music sector.

Photo of county commissioners and community nonprofit leaders at a press conference
Travis County commits $110 million in federal funding to combat homelessness

The allocation will fund 2,000 supportive housing units.