Portland Bureau of Transportation's (PBOT) permitting process for e-scooters came with a equity-focused requirement: all companies must place a certain number of scooters east of 82nd Ave, in Far NE Portland, and in the Cully Neighborhood (called the "East Neighborhoods Pattern Area").
The idea is to see if e-scooters will actually be of service to people living outside of the wealthier and whiter bubble that envelops inner Portland neighborhoods. PBOT will seriously consider this data when the city's 120-day pilot draws to a close—and the city considers issuing long-term permits to these companies. PBOT spokseperson Dylan Rivera is particularly interested if e-scooters will make public transportation a little more accessible to those who don't usually ride.
"Maybe it will make it easier to reach a light rail stop on I-205... who knows," Rivera says. "It's probably more profitable for companies to concentrate their scooters downtown, but we want to see how it works across the city."
Another way to measure e-scooter equity is through the application process. In the form companies must fill out to request a city e-scooter permit, PBOT asks how a company will work to engage "low-income and historically underserved communities." Here are the official questions:
The Mercury requested copies of the PBOT applications for all three e-scooter companies—Skip, Bird, and Lime—to see what they may have in store. Here's what we learned:
Skip pointed to two examples of how low-income people can benefit from the company: Free scooter rides for people who charge the contraption at their house (we have no idea how much that will impact an electric bill, however) and rewarding houseless Portlanders who return scooters to charging centers with money and/or a hot meal.
Skip also suggested a fee-reduction program for low-income people. " We envision residents qualifying through... SNAP/“Oregon Trail Card”, Oregon Health Plan, Oregon Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Oregon LifeLine," the application reads.
According to its application, Skip staff have already met with East Portland neighbors to talk about investing in better transportation infrastructure (bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.) to make e-scooter riding more of a reality. Skip has also placed their East Portland scooters in areas close to bus stops to inspire multi-modal trips.
Lime's answers are a little more vague than Skip's. In its application, Lime says that "in other cities" the company has hired veterans, formerly incarcerated people, and "people from disadvantaged communities." They plan to do the same in Portland. Lime says it has already been meeting with people at Self Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) about job opportunities.
Lime does not offer discounted pricing for people with low incomes. But, according to Lime, scooters are already affordable. "Our vehicles are typically considerably cheaper than operating one’s own car or other alternatives; we seek every opportunity to demonstrate this to all communities - especially low income and historically underserved communities."
Bird's application was sent to us with a lot of pages redacted. Either those redacted items include its equity plan—or the company didn't suggest one. We'll update this post as we get more information about the company.