City Hall

Dockless Vehicles Like Scooters Could Come Back to Dallas by October

Under new proposed rules, rental scooters like this one would have to share the roads with Dallas traffic.
Under new proposed rules, rental scooters like this one would have to share the roads with Dallas traffic. Courtesy of Bird
Nearly two years after they got the boot in Dallas, rental scooters and other dockless vehicles still aren’t allowed in the city. Dallas’ Department of Transportation has been working on relaunching the dockless vehicle program for some time now and recently proposed a new set of rules.

These rules restrict the number of vehicles and where they can be used and stored. Under the proposed rules, you can’t ride them in public parks or plazas, on the State Fair of Texas grounds or on the sidewalks. In other words, you’d be able to use them only on the road, which isn’t too comforting considering the city’s track record on pedestrian safety.

Briefed on the potential changes, City Council member Chad West said, "It's hard to tell them to stay off the sidewalks and get on the roads when they feel like they're going to die when we're on the roads because the driving is so unsafe.”

One problem with dockless vehicles has been where they end up. Some riders would ditch them in inconvenient locations, like the middle of the sidewalk, lying on their side. That's why users will now be required to take a photo of the vehicle when they’re done with it to ensure it was parked correctly. If it wasn’t, the user could face a $20 fine. Operators will also have to provide designated parking areas for their vehicles.

When briefed on the proposed rules last month, City Council member Jesse Moreno said if Dallas is going to be so strict with dockless vehicle parking, it should be just as strict about other vehicles, including cars.

He said he supports the dockless vehicle parking rules, but told the Department of Transportation: “We continue to have vehicles, trucks and cars parked on our Dallas downtown city sidewalks. If we’re going to have these same rules and implementations for our scooters, we need to do the same thing with our vehicles that are illegally parked, obstructing our [Americans with Disabilities Act] access points and our sidewalks, especially in our urban core."

The rules also present new restrictions for the providers of these vehicles. One item the Department of Transportation wanted to tackle was the number of operators allowed in the city and how many vehicles they’d be allowed to deploy. The department says only three operators should be allowed, and to start, none could have more than 500 vehicles.

If operators can meet certain metrics, primarily a low number of complaints, they may be able to increase their fleet by 250 vehicles every three months. But if an operator gets too many complaints, the city could pull back on the size of its fleet. Whatever the size, an operator can’t have more than 25% of its fleet in Dallas’ Central Business District. Also, riders would be able to use the vehicles only between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The City Council hasn’t voted yet to approve the new dockless vehicles. The transportation department is still holding meetings and gathering comments from residents and operators. If City Council does approve the new rules and operators are willing to come back, dockless vehicles could hit city streets in October. 
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn