Loudouners living near the county’s future Metro stops could soon see shared scooters popping up on sidewalks and streets.
The county government has launched a pilot program for shared mobility devices—such as e-bikes and scooters—within roughly a three-mile radius of the three future Metro stops in Loudoun and the existing Innovation Center Metrorail Station just across the Fairfax County line.
That means scooters will be allowed as of the new year in a large swath of central eastern Loudoun, including the W&OD Trail and up to the main terminal of Dulles International Airport. County staff members plan to run the program for at least six months after the new Metrorail stops open, gathering information before possibly establishing a new local ordinance to govern the devices and expanding the program countywide.
The total number of devices permitted in the pilot area will be capped at 1,000, and operators may license up to 250 at a time for a year for an $8,000 fee. Operators may file separate applications for different types of devices, such as motorized skateboards, e-scooters and bikes. The fee matches Arlington County, between Fairfax County at $9,500 and the cities of Alexandria and Fairfax at $5,000.
The fee may cover the county government’s administrative costs for the program for now, but the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure may request additional staffing to support the program in future budget deliberations.
Unlike some areas where the devices must be checked out and returned to specific docks—possibly giving the locality the power to designate where those docks will be—Loudoun’s pilot program does not have docks. Riders pick up and leave the devices wherever they like, which has already caused some supervisor concern. They—and county staff members—worried the devices could be an eyesore, or clutter sidewalks and make them noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Operators will be required to operate a 24-hour customer service phone number and web portal through which those issues can be reported. Additionally, homeowners associations and other groups may be able to work with the county to determine areas where the devices are prohibited, triggering a response when those areas are entered through the devices’ ability to track their own locations.
There may also be a resident survey to gather public opinion on the scooters.
According to a county report, if the pilot program area reaches 1,000 devices, there will be about one device per 50 residents, and on average a potential rider will be able to walk to a device within three minutes. In Northern Virginia, based on the experience in other localities closer to DC, the average trip on those devices is a mile long and takes about 14 minutes, for $3.50 to $6.50 per mile.
Scooter users using the Spin app in DC and Roslyn are charged 29 cents per minute of ride time.
“We’re not Arlington, we’re not DC where it’s dense,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “We’re more spread out, so there’s limited places where you might see this here… I would assume that providers, that’s where they would probably focus on too.”