Electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird could be operating on Tucson streets as early as July 1, but city officials will be closely monitoring their actions.
The Tucson City Council, on a 5-2 vote, backed a six-month pilot program Tuesday night, but not before a significant discussion on nearly every aspect of how the companies will be allowed to operate inside city limits.
Among the concerns were that the dockless, electric scooters would be popular in crowded areas where streets are narrow and sidewalks are already heavily used by pedestrians. Another worry was that they would be used on the University of Arizona campus, where they are banned.
Other issues included where the scooters will be discarded after use, underage teens and children operating them, enforcement issues falling on city staff rather than the private companies, and whether the city is fully protected from potential lawsuits.
Many on the council offered guarded support for the proposal and said the six-month trial period could end with the city again banning the devices if there are significant issues.
“I think we are doing the right thing in doing a pilot program,” said Councilman Paul Durham. “It offers a transportation choice, and I think it is wrong to say ‘no’ right off the bat without trying.”
Councilman Paul Cunningham said he wanted to see evidence that the pilot program could demonstrate that it could generate at least $270,000 in revenue for the city, which Cunningham said he would want to go directly to public safety.
One estimate suggested the e-scooter program would generate between $325,000 and $350,000 in new revenue annually.
Councilman Steve Kozachik and Councilwoman Shirley Scott voted against the measure, telling their colleagues that they are not convinced the battery-powered vehicles are suitable for Tucson.
“It is an accident waiting to happen,” Kozachik said after the meeting. “I think the council made the wrong decision. The merchants will be complaining. We have an enforcement obligation. We have a safety obligation. Our first responders have better things to do than chase down scooters.”
Tuesday’s decision by the council will allow staff to finalize the pilot program, a precursor to accepting bids from companies looking to rent out the e-scooters in Tucson.