When I rush out of my residence hall five minutes before a 9:35 a.m. class, electric scooters that are spread out around GW’s campus are a convenient way to get to class on time.
Electric scooters by brands like Lime, Bird and Skip are also a cheaper method of transportation, which has helped the brands gain popularity with students. D.C. began a pilot program of dockless bikes and scooters that will span through December but announced plans to further regulate the products by the beginning of next year. The proposed regulations include requiring companies to have racks and poles where scooters can be locked, adding operational fees for companies and capping the number of scooters one company can have in the area.
In adding more regulations, D.C. will not only strip away the convenience of parking scooters anywhere in the city but inevitably increase the price of a service that is meant to be cheap and accessible. Students have flocked to these services because of the low cost and added convenience, but these regulations will limit these benefits, which could push students toward another mode of transportation.
In adding more regulations, D.C. will not only strip away the convenience of parking scooters anywhere in the city but inevitably increase the price of a service.
It’s no secret that public transportation in D.C. has seen its fair share of criticism. Students have said they prefer to take ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft instead of using the Metro, and that trend echoes attitudes of other D.C. residents. Use of the system has decreased by 30 percent in the last decade, and a 20 percent decrease occurred in the last five years as the system deteriorated and users began to distrust it. At the same time, other convenient options like Uber and Lyft have gained popularity, but rides often boast hefty price tags.
But dockless electric scooters acknowledge both of these negatives to appeal to students. In addition to convenience and the affordable price of electric scooters, many students opt to use scooters because they are great for getting to and from locations that are closer together, like to get to classrooms on opposite ends of campus or to run nearby errands just off campus. With this context, using scooters is preferred, especially because they require no wait time. Requiring these devices to be locked up could add time that would dock the service’s convenience.
Some students may also choose to use scooters because the devices benefit the environment, as they are less toxic than riding gas- or diesel-fueled cars. Apps like Lime tell users the exact amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved during each trip from choosing a scooter instead of a car. While this measurement system is exclusive to Lime, decreasing carbon emissions even in the smallest of ways can be helpful and could be a draw for students.
In imposing new regulations, students will likely have to pay more for transportation because the increased cost placed on companies will translate into boosted prices for customers. This especially affects students because they often have limited access to financial resources but are still in need of quick transportation to get around the city for jobs and internships.
When weighing additional regulations, D.C. should consider how these changes will impact students and other populations that rely on scooters for convenient and affordable transportation. With tight student budgets across the board, adding extra costs will hurt all consumers. There are plenty of things to see and do in the District and how we choose to get there, whether by Metro, a Lyft or a scooter, shouldn’t stand in our way.
Taleen Khleifat, a sophomore double-majoring in international affairs and philosophy, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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This article appeared in the October 11, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.