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News / Clark County News

Vancouver council may be on board with electric scooters

They’re part of transportation program discussion

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 3, 2019, 9:14pm

A citywide electric scooter program may be back on the table in Vancouver.

At a city council meeting Monday evening, multiple councilors expressed a willingness to solicit a third-party electric scooter vendor in Vancouver, adopting a similar model used in scooter trials playing out across Portland and other metropolitan areas nationwide.

The sentiment walked back a discussion that the council had during a retreat in March, when the group agreed that the “micro-mobility units” weren’t worth the liability or the infrastructure headache.

“I see this as another multimodal form of transportation in our community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bart Hansen, who said he recently took a scooter in Portland when he couldn’t find parking near an event and found it safe and convenient. “It’s something for all incomes, that they can utilize this.”

Councilor Linda Glover added that tourists, especially, can benefit from electric scooter rentals when they’re visiting a new town. And as Vancouver starts to position itself as a tourist destination with the new waterfront development, scooters can help solidify that identity.

“Tourists are using that all up and down the West Coast,” Glover said. “I think that we’re expecting 200,000 visitors to come to Vancouver. It’ll help with parking, it’ll help with transportation.”

While the discussion indicated an abrupt change of heart in the city council’s consensus against the scooters — just a few months ago, Councilor Ty Stober had said his friends in Portland were “ready to start throwing them in the river” — it’s early days yet. Any conversation about electric scooters in Vancouver are still hypothetical.

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said the city council would set aside time in a future meeting to discuss establishing a city Mobility Commission, which could examine the possibility of electric scooters in more detail.

All about transportation

The meeting wasn’t meant to be about scooters, but it was a natural pivot from an earlier agenda item: a workshop to discuss the 2020-2025 Transportation Improvement Program.

Presented by Chris Malone, Public Works finance and asset manager, the plan provides a detailed forecast of all the bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements the city plans to undertake in the next six years, as well as plans for street paving and signals. The city council reviews the TIP annually.

Monday’s 129-page draft plan focused on safety for cyclists — the Westside Bike Mobility Project, which would establish dedicated bike lanes along three north-south corridors, was shelved this year following concerns over transparency and lost parking, but it still remains a 2020 goal — and a program that would calm traffic within neighborhoods.

The comprehensive plan also details the purchase and installation of 13,500 LED streetlights, approved by the council earlier this year as a way to slash electricity costs.

The projects run the gamut. Of those laid out for the next half-decade, 13 are citywide initiatives, while another 72 are specific to certain sites. Some are one-and-done capital projects — build one, move on to the next — while others, like maintenance or management programs, are ongoing.

The city has already secured money for six of the projects. Another 18 have been partially funded.

“There’s money, for say, the design phase or for the right-of-way phase, but not all the money is there for the construction phase,” Malone explained.

More than 50 additional projects await funding altogether.

A searchable map of the full Transportation Improvement Program is available online at cityofvancouver.us/tip, including expanded information about each individual project. Curious residents can look up the location, the cost and the timeline of any given proposal.

“If citizens are interested about a specific project, they can find these detail sheets and learn more about it,” Malone said.

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Columbian staff writer