Oftentimes, rented scooters would be left to pile up. Some people would hurt themselves riding them, and curfews for the vehicles weren’t being followed. So, Dallas temporarily pulled the plug on its shared dockless vehicle program that allowed the bikes and scooters in the first place.
The city says it’s been working ever since to let the scooters and bikes return. But the return has been delayed multiple times. Now, they’re expected back next month.
The latest news on shared dockless vehicles like e-bikes and scooters came in a May 5 memo from Assistant City Manager Robert M. Perez. In the memo, Perez said the relaunch of Dallas’ shared dockless vehicle program is now planned for June 1. We’ll just have to see about that.
Before this memo, the dockless vehicles were expected to be back on the streets in the first quarter of this year. But now we’re in the second quarter of 2023, and there has yet to be a relaunch. Before that, the city was saying to expect the scooters and bikes back by the end of October 2022.
Perez said in the memo that multiple city departments have been working on a contract with a data vendor to secure the dockless vehicle program. “The data vendor is a critical component in ensuring city staff is able to hold dockless vehicle operators accountable to the program guidelines,” Perez said. “After many challenges, the data vendor contract is nearing execution.”
Meanwhile, city staff have been working on other aspects of the program, like updating 311 service requests so that complaints about dockless vehicles can be addressed. They’re also still trying to find locations to place the first vehicle corrals downtown and in Deep Ellum. The city is also working with vehicle operators on the relaunch of the program.
“Somehow we went an entire City Council term with scooters being ‘temporarily’ taken off of the streets.” – Sean Buckley, attorneytweet this
Local attorney Sean Buckley, who lives near downtown, has been waiting for the return of the program since e-scooters and bikes were banned in Dallas in September 2020. Working and living around downtown, he would often use scooters to get from A to B. He’s been keeping an eye on the city’s progress on the program and hasn’t been satisfied.
“At this point, I’ll believe we are getting scooters back when I see them out on the streets,” he told the Observer. Before, the city’s webpage covering the shared dockless vehicle program said Dallas would start issuing permits to vendors in February this year. When February came and went, Buckley said he reached out to the city’s Department of Transportation to ask when the permits would be issued. He didn’t get an answer but said references to the February timeline were subsequently removed from Dallas webpage.
Buckley has been sharing his frustrations with the delays on social media. Eventually, he said his council member Jesse Moreno called him up to try to explain the situation as he understood it. Buckley said Moreno, who represents downtown and Deep Ellum on City Council, told him that the city messed up the procurement process to secure the program’s data vendor.
“From my understanding based on our conversation, the city did not follow the necessary procedures in the [request for proposal] or procurement process as it relates to the data vendor the city will use to monitor compliance of the scooter vendors, and they needed to ensure that that was done correctly before launch, and did not want to launch without this compliance aspect,” Buckley said. “At that time, [Moreno] said he expected scooters would likely hit the streets in the beginning of April.”
Moreno didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In an emailed statement, Jennifer Brown, a spokesperson for Dallas, said there were delays in executing the contract with the data vendor because of several factors. This included staff turnover in all involved departments and struggles finalizing the contract and insurance.
“The overall process took a significant amount of time and effort to go through the thoughtful and democratic process necessary for giving these shared devices the best chance of being successful in Dallas,” Brown said.
It’s May, and the program still hasn’t been relaunched. There could be a few reasons for that, but Buckley thinks some of it comes down to the will of the City Council. He thinks council members wanted to stay away from the issue until after the recent City Council elections.
“To be honest, I think as we got closer to election season, I believe a majority of our City Council members probably wanted the scooters launched after election day so as not to be a wedge issue that would drive people to the polls,” Buckley said. “Somehow we went an entire City Council term with scooters being ‘temporarily’ taken off of the streets.”
During that City Council term, though, the city has been working on new rules for the dockless vehicles. The rules limit the program to three operators: Bird, Lime and Superpedestrian. None are allowed to have more than 500 scooters in the city to start. If they continue meeting all the city’s requirements and the number of complaints stays low, the operators will be able to increase their fleet by 250 vehicles every three months. Use of the scooters will be limited to the hours between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.
"We will be in touch as the city gets closer to the launch of the program.” – Alana Morales, Bird spokespersontweet this
“Bird is very excited for the opportunity to return to Dallas after being selected as one of the scooter operators for the City’s new micromobility program,” Alana Morales, a spokesperson for the company said in an email to the Observer. The company said it has been working with the city over the past year to get the dockless vehicle program relaunched.
“We’re working with cities and universities across the world to provide new transportation options, complement public transit systems, and invest in safety infrastructure that benefits everyone, and look forward to doing the same in Dallas this spring,” Morales said. "We will be in touch as the city gets closer to the launch of the program.”
Kelly Pierce, the Dallas operations coordinator for Lime, told the Observer by email that the company was excited for its return to the city, and that the changes to the program should make it more organized.
"We’ve worked with the city to design a program that addresses the concerns of the previous pilot like street clutter and tidiness, and we understand the key is getting it right so we're happy to be patient," Pierce said. "This time around, riders, pedestrians, and everyone else can expect a more organized and tidy program that all of Dallas can enjoy and we can't wait to get started soon."
Speaking of the previous ban, Pierce said, "We were disappointed to leave last time around but we as a company and the entire micromobility industry have evolved a lot since then. We can't wait to show Dallas what a new and improved shared e-scooter operation looks like."
Buckley hopes that day will come soon.
“Living and working downtown, I am hopeful we can get this alternative and much more convenient form of micro-mobility back on the streets,” Buckley said. “Let’s hope the new regulations they passed capping the number of scooters and regulating their disbursement across the city don’t have the effect of eliminating these as a viable alternative to having to get in your car to go somewhere that is just a little too far to walk.”