Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#atxcouncil's latest act of DIMWITTED TYRANNY illustrates why #TXLEGE MUST GO FURTHER THAN Huffines' Transportation Bill

"Neither do they put new wine into old vessels: for then the vessels would break, and the wine would be spilt, and the vessels would perish: but they put new wine into new vessels, and so are both preserved."
Matthew 9:17

Here we go again:
The Austin City Council early Friday morning gave its regulators a hammer to brandish on electric rental scooters and dockless bikes. What remains to be seen is when the city will use it.

The council, on a unanimous vote, approved an ordinance tweaking several sections of existing city law to make it clear that leaving scooters or bikes on city right of way for rental is illegal in Austin, absent that person or company applying for and receiving a city license to do so. The new ordinance also clarifies that the city may impound such vehicles found in violation of city rules, redeemable by the owners at the cost of $200 for each scooter or bike.

Robert Spillar, director of the Austin Transportation Department, said after the meeting that his office, after sending warning letters to the two companies now operating scooters on the streets — Bird Rides and LimeBike — would begin impounding scooters for the companies operating without a license.

The ordinance says that no person — including customers, not merely representatives of the scooter or bike companies — may “place, store, or park, or allow another person to place, store, or park, a vehicle, machinery, or other item on a street, alley or sidewalk” for the purpose of selling, renting or leasing the item.
Predictably followed by:
AUSTIN -- Two motorized scooter companies have pulled their fleets from the streets of Austin after the city council adopted an emergency ordinance.

Both LimeBike and Bird came under fire after bringing their business to Austin without permits from the City. In fact, a Thursday night council meeting lasted until 3 a.m. Friday in part due to debate over the controversial scooter companies, which allow users to register the scooters for use via smart phone and then leave them in sidewalks or streets for the next user once they are done.
Annnnnd sigh....we've seen this movie before.

Dan Keshet details the potential stakes:
new technology has the potential to change cities in extraordinary ways: dockless scooters as well as their kin, dockless and docked bikes, hoverboards, e-bikes (personal or shared), etc. The post will focus exclusively on dockless scooters, but many of the observations and almost all of the recommendations apply to their cousins.

Why do I see so much potential in these little devices? In part, it’s because dockless bikes have already claimed a huge share of transportation users in places they’ve been deployed at scale, despite only having been around a couple years and despite having some challenges scooters don’t have.
Keshet goes on to discuss various economic and technical reasons why he sees so much potential in various dockless technologies.  You really should read the whole thing.  The short version is that it's a potentially very low cost was for significant numbers of people to get where they're going without adding to traffic.

There's a lot we could say about this topic, but we'll leave it at this: We told the Texas Senate so (sorta, but even we didn't fully understand where technology was headed).

Last year, as the Texas Legislature was cleaning up the Austin (and other cities) City Council's Uber debacle, the Texas Senate heard several bills related to municipal ground transportation regulations.  Most of the bills were limited to TNC-style "ridesharing" services (eg. Uber/Lyft).  But Senator Don Huffines had SB 113, which would have forbidden municipal regulation of passenger transportation services provided through traditional automobiles.

We testified in favor of Senator Huffines' bill specifically because it was the only one we thought could anticipate the next municipal ground transportation debacle.  But even that bill was only limited in scope to services provided though traditional automobiles.  At the time (which was barely over a year ago) dockless scooters et. al. weren't even something we'd imagined.

And that's a textbook example of why we need a permissionless standard when it comes to new technology.

Bottom Line: The cheapest and easiest solution for traffic congestion is to allow new technologies to meet consumer demand.  Unfortunately, the municipal governments want "their" cut.  Thus the legislature really should step in and put an end to these shakedowns once and for all.

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