Summit County welcomes electric scooters to the Snyderville Basin
A new mode of transportation that is becoming increasingly popular in cities across the country could soon be popping up in the Snyderville Basin: electric scooters.
The Summit County Council on Wednesday passed a temporary-zoning ordinance to regulate the use of shared active transportation networks, such as ones involving electric scooters or other small-wheeled vehicles, in the Basin. The six-month ordinance would give county staffers time to create permanent standards for how private companies will operate active transportation systems in the county.
Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County’s regional transportation planning director, said private companies have already deployed electric scooter shares in places such as Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Santa Monica, California. She said the county hasn’t been directly contacted by any of those companies about operating in the area, but the Basin is an attractive site for active transportation.
Rodriguez said the private companies may be able to meet a need that the county is unable to.
“We could have said we don’t want them in the Basin, but we don’t want to stifle innovation,” she said. “We want to encourage all types of transportation and innovation in the industry and fill as many gaps as possible. But, we do need a regulatory framework.”
The companies that deploy the e-scooters make them available through smartphone apps. Users are able to log on to the apps to locate scooters at undetermined locations in their area, unlike the electric bike program in Summit County where the bikes are available at established docking stations throughout Park City and the Basin. In Salt Lake City, for example, the scooters are often seen lying on sidewalks or at intersections throughout the area.
“What we are finding is that in other areas where they haven’t had any ordinances on the book, they wake up one morning and the scooters have been dumped throughout their community,” said County Council Chair Kim Carson. “It is a very popular trend and we would just rather have some foresight and put an ordinance into place now. Not to encourage it to come here, just in the anticipating that it likely will happen at some point.”
Carson said she has mixed feelings about a shared electric scooter program operating in the county. One of her biggest concerns is the competition for sidewalk space among pedestrians, bikers and scooter riders.
“What truly is our capacity?” she said. “But, on the flip side, if it is something that people will jump on and go from point A to point B, it is helping with our goal of providing different modes of transportation.”
The county’s temporary ordinance establishes standards for operation that cover franchise agreements, business licenses, areas of use and impound provisions. Users will not be allowed to park the scooters on trails or next to bus stops. Vendors will also be limited to deploying 50 scooters, placing them no less than 1/8 of a mile apart.
Pat Putt, Summit County’s community development director, said the county will require potential operators to have a franchise agreement and a modified business license. Staffers will consider prohibiting scooter use on public streets and will require users to obtain the permission of property owners to leave the scooters on their property. The impound provision will allow the county to remove the scooters if they are left in areas where they aren’t allowed or abandoned, Putt said.
“We have been in conversations with those in Park City who are looking at implementing their own version of this. But, it’s not necessary to wait for them to do that,” he said. “This will allow us to have the time to develop a seamless set of standards for both the city and the county.”
County Councilor Roger Armstrong said he supports shared active transportation as long as the county is able to properly regulate it. He said he recently noticed the trend popping up in Salt Lake City and places in California, adding, “They are everywhere.”
“They are leaning against trees and laying in the sidewalk,” he said. “I’ve seen a number of people walking around looking for the scooters.”
Armstrong said he would want the county to protect against the scooters being randomly discarded on lawns and private properties, issues that have crept up in other cities where they operate.
“Based on what I saw in Salt Lake, I thought they are probably going to land in Park City, so let’s give some thought to how we want this to look and how to regulate it,” he said. “But, I think anything that enhances active transportation and allows people to get out of their cars is encouraged.”
Two people indicated in interviews they are considering mounting campaigns for the Park City Council, a signal the City Hall election could attract an intriguing slate of candidates in a year when the majority of the five seats are on the ballot.