Scooter rental companies can now set up shop within Baton Rouge city limits, the Metro Council decided at its Wednesday meeting.
The council passed two ordinances: one that allows for the leasing of scooters within city limits, and another that outlines how the scooters may be operated.
Local economic development officials hope the move will spur growth in the city’s core. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which recently threw its support behind both ordinances, praises the council’s approval as critical to addressing what Liz Smith, BRAC’s senior vice president of economic competitiveness, calls a “talent recruitment and retention issue” in Baton Rouge.
“Cities that focus on providing enhanced quality of life through innovative transportation options and fun amenities like scooters are better able to compete for a highly skilled workforce,” Smith says. “We’re grateful that council members recognize how this can positively impact economic development.”
What’s not yet clear is which companies will apply for licenses. Bird, which briefly operated an electric scooter service in Lafayette, has since pulled out of the Louisiana market; however, Gotcha, Baton Rouge’s bikeshare program partner, has expressed interest in launching a scooter-sharing program in the city.
“We’ve seen in other markets that multimodal systems with bike-sharing and scooter-sharing programs work well,” says Anne Morgan, Gotcha’s chief marketing officer. “We have nothing to announce at this time, but we’re going to continue coordinating with the city-parish to see how our Baton Rouge partnership can be most effective.”
Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, says he’s been having discussions with several potential vendors, declining to disclose them. Up to two scooter rental operators can receive licenses that would expire after three years.
While he’s excited the ordinances passed, Rhorer says some more work still has to be done before the scooter-sharing program can get up and running.
“There has to be some type of staging or corral area for the scooters, so we have to first work with the companies to identify where those areas will be and then get those plans approved by the city,” Rhorer says. “Maybe we can get something set up by Jan. 1. It’ll create a new dynamic for downtown.”
Initially, a licensed company can manage up to 100 scooters, with the option to expand to 250 after 90 days. The companies are also required to share usage data with the city-parish every month, post real-time data on device locations, and pay an application fee, annual per-device fee and performance bond for each device.
Not only are the scooters prevented from operating on sidewalks or from being parked in a way that obstructs pedestrians, but they must also be rebalanced daily by the managing companies and picked up within two hours of a complaint being filed.