Electric scooter sharing could come back to Chicago under plan that could get approval this week

Electric scooter sharing could come back to Chicago under plan that could get approval this week
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A full-fledged Chicago electric scooter-sharing program seems primed to launch thousands of the zippy conveyances citywide.

The City Council Transportation Committee passed an ordinance Wednesday that would allow as many as 12,500 e-scooters to be licensed in Chicago by scooter-sharing companies like Lime, Spin and Bird. Committee Chairman Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st, said he expects it to pass the full City Council Thursday.

Under the proposal, the city would charge scooter companies $1 per scooter per day to license their fleet. Riders would also pay city taxes equal to 9% of the cost of the ride when they rent the vehicles.

The plan makes sense, Brookins said.

“I don’t know why it should be a big deal,” he said. “If we’re talking the talk about going green, lowering our carbon footprint, then we should be doing what we can to get people out of vehicles that burn fossil fuels, and this makes sense, especially for people taking short trips where they can take a scooter rather than an Uber where the drivers are burning gas cruising around downtown waiting for a fare.”

This permanent proposal follows two e-scooter pilot programs that drew support but also pushback from aldermen who said riders were knocking people over on sidewalks and leaving the vehicles strewn about when they were finished with them.

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Brookins said the ordinance includes language requiring that the scooters to be equipped with “sidewalk-riding detection hardware” which might cause a scooter to emit a loud noise if it’s ridden on a sidewalk for too long. The companies might also construct scooter corrals that would allow riders to get discounts off the costs of their rides if they park in designated areas when done, he said.

Officials from e-scooter companies on Wednesday told aldermen their scooters also include “geo-fencing” technology that causes them to slow down and eventually stop if they are ridden in areas like the Chicago lakefront where doing so is prohibited.

Initially, any licensees will be able to operate up to 2,000 scooters each, and the city transportation commissioner will have the discretion to increase the size of the full fleet to 12,500.

If it passes Thursday, the permanent scooter program should be up and running next spring, a Transportation Department official told aldermen Wednesday.

Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi told aldermen earlier this year the city collected $1.2 million in license fees from companies, plus $300,000 in taxes from renters during a four-month 2020 pilot that allowed the three companies to each deploy 3,333 scooters.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration supports the e-scooter proposal, with Transportation Department officials speaking in favor of it at prior meetings.

jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @_johnbyrne

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