When the City of Atlanta enacted its first dockless vehicle regulations back in January, the new laws’ language primarily addressed what shareable e-scooter and bike users can and and cannot do with the devices.
No riding on sidewalks; no parking them in public rights of way; no more than one person to a vehicle, etc.
The legislation also built the framework for a permitting system that capped the amount of dockless mobility devices an operating company could have in its fleet.
One often-overlooked piece of the regulatory code, however, is its “Equity” section, which aims to ensure new transportation options aren’t available exclusively to people with means. Or smartphones.
“Like much of the way we administer these regulations, I expect some refining of these standards this year,” City of Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Keane tells Curbed Atlanta.
Some companies, Keane wrote in an email, “are allowing either PayNearMe or prepaid debit cards as options. Others offer a check/money order pay-by-mail option in advance of setting up partnerships with local vendors/businesses.”
Figuring out a way for people without smartphones to use dockless e-scooters and bikes, though, is proving more difficult.
City officials can’t exactly ask operating companies to make their vehicles accept cash payments.
The devices, especially e-scooters, have been constantly abused all over town—an issue in many cities. Sometimes they’re just left lying down in the middle of a sidewalk; other times, they’re almost completely trashed, left in pieces in roads or crammed into trash cans.
Imagine if they were full of coins and dollar bills.
“I don’t really envision a dockless device taking or carrying cash,” said City Councilman Dustin Hillis, who chairs the council’s public safety committee.
City Councilman and transportation committee chair Andre Dickens agreed, saying in an email to Curbed the vehicle-sharing apps could “have different pay arrangements like prepaid or some credits from organizations.”
That still leaves the question of how to rent an e-scooter or bike without access to a smartphone.
Keane pointed to the Relay Bikeshare program as a mobility option for people who don’t have smartphones.
As for the “equitable distribution requirements,” it’s clear that dockless e-scooters and bikes are typically concentrated in more affluent parts of Atlanta.
Keane said city officials are monitoring which companies have been stationing their rides in each of the four “Equity Zones” determined by the city’s Equitable Target Areas and the Atlanta City Design.
(The Equity Zones are all on the Westside or in Southwest Atlanta, according to the Department of City Planning.)
Each month, dockless vehicle companies must submit a report detailing how much of their fleet has been distributed in each Equity Zone, and the planning department is expected to produce a report soon evaluating the companies’ compliance with the code.