MARIETTA — Tomorrow’s metro Atlanta transit solution could rely in part on technology based on two wheels, from electric scooters to bicycles unlocked by mobile phone applications. Christopher Tomlinson, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, told Cobb Commissioners as Tomlinson presented an update on the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority on Monday.
“For us, we’re looking at transit and wanting to coordinate with both the public sector and the private sector. (Scooter sharing services) Bird, Lime, (plus) ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft, (and) bikeshares,” Tomlinson said. “These are all parts of the region’s transit solutions.”
House Bill 930, which was signed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal in May, created the 16-member Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, also known as the ATL, a new regional authority that will implement transit projects across 13 metro counties and ensure plans connect efficiently across jurisdictions.
Technology will be a key component the ATL will focus on, Tomlinson said, with the board expected to pursue this year policies and standards dealing with electric scooters, colloquially referred to by some as e-scooters.
Under scooter companies’ typical business model, users can check out an electric scooter, ride it to their destination, leave it there and pay via an app. Users can also bring the scooters home and charge them to get a small payment.
“Imagine, if you will, getting into a future state where in one application you can see all of the bus service or rail service, and be able to, much like you would do with Waze — put in your journey, your origin and your destination — and see a suite of options in front of you that may cut across different operators in different counties, and then giving the commuter the choice of whether they want to access some or all of that,” Tomlinson said. “The key to that is going to be technology coordination, and we have a number of plans and processes that we’re kicking off this year to help all of this region get better data and be able to better utilize the data and information that we have.”
Tomlinson’s comments follow the Marietta City Council’s unanimous vote in February to ban shareable dockless scooters, applying to rentable scooters provided by several companies, though residents will still be allowed to ride their own scooters.
Mayor Steve Tumlin and other city officials said the impetus for the ban were cited problems raised by cities such as Atlanta, from scooters being left all over city streets and sidewalks, blocking pedestrians and drivers, to the high speed the scooters could reach on narrow city sidewalks or trails.
Another nearby city, Woodstock in Cherokee, is also pursuing a ban on e-scooters, according to the Cherokee Tribune, a sister publication of the MDJ.
“As everyone continues to wrestle with how they may want to regulate, either for safety perspectives, etc., we don’t want to stand in the way of local preference or regulation, but we’re looking at them in recognition of the fact that there are citizens throughout the region who are using them, so how do we responsibly interact and possibly connect with these services?” Tomlinson said. “The ATL was created two years ago — this thought of e-scooters literally didn’t even exist, so we want to have an entity that is nimble enough to go ahead and recognize these quickly changing trends and see how we can best fold this into an integrated network and suite of options.”
Cobb, meanwhile, has not committed to pursuit of a ban, nor a policy to expressly allow the conveyances within the unincorporated portions of the county. Chairman Mike Boyce said Monday afternoon that the county has not taken a position on the matter since commissioners have not discussed it.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who has advocated for expanded transit options in her district, said she had an “open mind” to different modes of transportation such as e-scooters.
“I know as we look to invest in the county, there’s conversation about there being the ‘last mile’ to help people get from transit home, so I think it’s helpful to look at all of those things to see how we make transit more accessible,” Cupid said after Monday’s meeting, “because the more accessible it is, the more likely it will be used.”