E-Scooters

E-scooter rental companies won’t have to pay nearly as much for their annual licenses in Mesa as they do in Tempe and Scottsdale.

Long after the initial e-scooter invasion, Mesa is finally starting to regulate the vehicles later this fall, but in a less restrictive and less expensive way than originally planned.

When the number of scooters available for rent dropped severely during the summer heat, Mesa officials decided to take a different approach. 

They wanted to strike a balance between attracting scooter companies and regulating them.

Transportation Director RJ Zeder said the number of scooters declined from a high of 2,500 to about 60 earlier this month. He proposed an even sharper reduction in the annual licensing fee paid by companies from $5,000 a year to $100 a year.

The $5,000 fee was in line with licensing fees each company had to pay to operate in Tempe and Phoenix, but the original proposal never was enacted as Zeder sought more feedback from the companies.

Zeder said the drop in the number of scooters probably reflected a combination of summer heat and the appetite for them in Mesa.

“Six hundred in a city is small. We’re seeing thousands in surrounding communities,’’ Zeder said. 

Earlier this year, when the number of scooters swelled, “I think the companies were trying to get their brand seen,’’ he said.

A presentation to the city council said that Lyft stages about 150 scooters a day in Mesa; Bird stages 50; Lime 350; and Spin 50.

City Manager Chris Brady said the city doesn’t want to impose such a high fee that it would deter companies from operating in Mesa.

He said the scooters are helpful to some people mainly traveling to the light rail, or from the light rail to another location, such as Sloan Park or Riverview Park.

Zeder said he proposed the low license fee because the scooters haven’t taken up much of his staff’s time and he would like to consider the scooter ordinance a year-long pilot project to see how it works out.

But Vice Mayor Mark Freeman and councilmember Jen Duff objected, saying the proposed fee was too low. 

“I would like to see the administrative fee increased to compensate for the staff time we spend on scooters,’’ Duff said.

Mayor John Giles agreed and said he supported a $400 per year fee, which would still make Mesa a bargain for scooter companies that are paying $7,788 a year in Tempe and $5,000 every six months in Phoenix.

Moreover, Phoenix created a zone downtown where scooters are permissible during a six-month experiment.

“When the initial surge occurred, it was horrible,’’ Giles said, noting scooters were seemingly everywhere and the city with no regulation to control them.

But with the sharp decrease in the number of scooters, he said, “We don’t want to see them go away.’’

The original proposal’s regulations on the staging of scooters in one geographic area, essentially in central Mesa, also was scuttled. 

The scooters can be staged citywide under the new ordinance, but cannot be located in city parks or on private property.

A 15-mph speed limit was established for scooters and 20 mph for ebicycles. Only one person is allowed on a scooter at any given time, but Zeder admitted that these sorts of rules are difficult if not impossible to enforce.

After much debate, the council decided to stick with Zeder’s recommendation that the scooters be barred from sidewalks along Main Street in downtown Mesa.

However, in the interests of safety, scooters will be allowed on sidewalks in other parts of the city, especially along roads with a 45-mph speed limit.

Municipalities are all over the map when it comes to scooter regulations – and many are still tinkering with the approach they want or need to take.

Councilmember Kevin Thompson gave the scooters a bit of an endorsement, saying that he and his family had used them while they were on vacation.

“They’re a lot of fun,’’ Thompson said. “They are dangerous, just like any form of transportation.’’

The council voted to introduce the ordinance on Monday and is scheduled to vote on whether to adopt it at the next meeting on Oct. 7.

City Attorney Jim Smith said the regulation will not become effective until later this year because city ordinances require new fees to be posted 60 days in advance.

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