BALTIMORE — The Baltimore City Department of Transportation published newly proposed rules and regulations that would govern multiple dockless vehicles, implementing restrictions on speed, deployment, and creating “no ride zones.”
The proposals are based on what BCDOT learned during the six-month pilot program allowing private companies like Bird, Lime, and Uber to provide dockless scooters and bicycles for people to rent in the city. The plan is being made available for public comment, which can be submitted in writing, electronically on the BCDOT website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the mail or in person at BCDOT offices at 417 E. Fayette Street, 5th Floor, Room 559, Baltimore, Md., 21202. Commenters are encouraged to be as specific as possible in terms of referring to specific elements of the plan or areas of implementation and including preferred language for amendments.
“The proposed rules and regulations are a necessary step in our long-term plan to manage the future of a thriving dockless program in Baltimore,” said BCDO Acting Director Frank J. Murphy. “With this approach, we are making great strides to ensure that all citizens across the city have easy access to equitable transportation.”
According to the new plan, the city will issue permits to four companies to provide and operate fleets of dockless scooters, with those companies being chosen through a competitive bidding process. Scooters will need to be equipped with basic safety features like brakes with concealed wires, kickstands, front and back lights, and speed governors, which will regulate the speed the vehicles can travel, including “geo-fence” technology that would further restrict the vehicle’s speed in specific areas of the city. Permit holders will be able to operate fleets of up to 1,000 but no fewer than 150 of each type of dockless vehicles.
Permit holders would need to make sure they deploy no less than 5 percent, but no more than 25 percent, of their fleet in each of nine “deployment zones,” established by the plan. The vehicles must be in place in each zone in the morning, as DOT will check for deployments between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. As the day progresses, if more than 35 percent of a fleet is in one zone, permit holders will have to redistribute vehicles within two hours of being told of the over concentration by the DOT. Additionally, the plan creates 20 designated “Equity Zones,” where permit holders must deploy at least three dockless vehicles prior to 8 a.m. each day.
Presumably to prevent large clusters of vehicles that could present issues for egress or safety, permit holders may deploy no more than 12 vehicles per “block face,” an area designated as one side of a street, from corner to corner, excluding alleyways. Property owners can submit non-deployment requests to DOT. Vehicles must be removed or made unavailable for rent between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. each overnight. Large portions of a fleet, if not all vehicles, must be removed if DOT provides 24-hours notice prior to major weather events or other emergencies.
The plan proposes a city-wide speed limit on dockless vehicles of 15 mph, with that limit being enforced through “speed governors” that make the scooters incapable of traveling faster than the established limit. With concerns about riders traveling too swiftly in areas that have high concentrations of foot and vehicular traffic, both “reduced speed zones,” and “no ride zones,” will be implemented.
The Inner Harbor Promenade, from Federal Hill to the Canton Waterfront, will be considered a “reduced speed zone,” in which dockless vehicles cannot travel faster than 8 mph. These speed caps will be achieved through “geo-fencing.” With each vehicle able to have it’s location tracked and monitored around the city – the same technology that allows riders to use an app and find nearby available scooters – as scooters enter specific areas, the electronic speed governors will further cap the vehicles’ top speeds. The plan also establishes “no ride zones” around Maryland Stadium Authority Properties of M&T Bank Stadium, Camden Yards, and the surrounding parking lots.
The plan also proposes guidelines for more equitable access and other pricing stipulations. Permit holders would have to make available an option for riders to buy rides by using cash and without a smartphone, installing at least one piece of infrastructure necessary to facilitate these payments in each of the designated “deployment zones.” Free rides for those able to prove they are low-income customers will also be made available.
Permit holders can experiment with variable pricing “when it is designed and proves over time to increase equity and provide access for underserved low income populations,” the plan says, but customers cannot be charged more based on where their trip ends, or on any identifiable demographic information that would prove prejudicial.
DATA & REPORTING
The plan stipulates extensive reporting duties of permit holders, in terms of information shared with the city, information collected from riders, and information decimated about their fleets.
The scooters must be equipped with on-board GPS technology that doesn’t rely on “spatial information” from a rider’s phone. Riders will not be required to grant access to their phones' location services, contacts, or files in order to use vehicles, and permit holders cannot share customer data with third parties. Information that is collected about or from customers will be made publicly available, once they have obtained authentication.
Permit holders would also be required to have extensive insurance coverage, including workers compensation, at least $3 million in commercial general liability and contractual liability insurance, and at least $1 million in business automobile liability. Permit holders must also “indemnify, defend and hold harmless the City, its elected and appointed officials, departments, agencies, employees, agents, and all other representatives together with all officers, directors, employees, agents, and representatives of any of them” from all claims of liability, injury, or contractual issues related to the dockless vehicle program, the plan says.