Loudoun County launched its Shared Mobility Device Pilot Program with the new year, setting out the rules for renting devices like electric scooters, electric bikes, and shared bicycles in the county.
The previous Board of Supervisors approved the pilot program on Dec. 3, after the General Assembly adopted a law allowing those shared scooters to operate in Virginia. The law also gave localities authority to establish rules and restrictions for those devices.
In Loudoun, the pilot program limits the number of devices to a maximum of 1,000, and restricts their operation to an area within about three miles of the county’s three planned Metrorail stops. County transportation staff members plan to run the pilot program for at least six months after those Metro stops open to gather information, before possibly recommending a local ordinance to govern the devices to the Board of Supervisors.
And the county government is looking for rental operators now.
To rent out shared devices in Loudoun, operators must sign an agreement with the county, get a permit for up to 250 devices, pay an annual $8,000 fee, and collect a 1 percent short-term rental tax. Operators can hold up to two permits. Operators must also meet the usual requirements of operating a business in Loudoun.
Authorized operators and their contact information will be listed on the Loudoun County website.
“The county is committed to providing transportation choices that connect people to their communities, employment centers, educational institutions, activity centers and other amenities,” stated Joe Kroboth, director of the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure, which is overseeing the county’s pilot program. “This program is designed to test how [shared mobility devices] as a mobility option can support this goal and to evaluate the impact of this technology on the county.”
County staff members also said the pilot program works toward the new county comprehensive plan’s goals to provide more transportation access and mobility in Loudoun.
While some localities have opted for placing docks for shared mobility devices at specific locations, Loudoun’s program will be dockless. Riders will pick up and leave the devices wherever they like, which prompted some concern that 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. Homeowners associations and other groups may also be able to work with the county to determine areas where the devices are prohibited. That could include triggering some sort of response from the devices, which will track their locations, when they enter those restricted areas.
More information about the pilot program, including the service area map and operator permit applications, is online loudoun.gov/SharedMobilityDevices.