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City moves closer on bringing scooters to downtown Vicksburg

Representatives for San Antonio-based Blue Duck Express, which rents electric scooters as an alternative transportation in urban areas, met with city officials Thursday on a 12-month pilot program to use scooters in the city.

Although Peter Gomez, Blue Duck’s vice president of operations, said the company hopes to have the pilot program ready “by the tourist season,” no date was given when the program will start, pending action by the Legislature and a contract between the city and the company.

“We’ve got to get some legislation passed and a contract,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “We have pretty much agreed to 95 percent (of the contract). We just need to go to the Legislature and make sure we have the authorization to bring them (the scooters) to the city so we can do it on a pilot for one year.”

City attorney Nancy Thomas said the city will seek a local and private, or special law, to allow the scooters to operate in the city.

Flaggs, who spent time Thursday testing the scooters, believes having the scooters in Vicksburg will be a positive move for the city and the state. Having the pilot program here, he said, could open the rest of the state for Blue Duck.

The program, he said, “Is being done at zero cost to the city.

“The good news is we’ll be the first in the state to be able to demonstrate that they’re safe, they’re parkable and at the same time this is good for tourism, and it attracts the millennials,” he said.

Gomez said the program will help determine the feasibility of having scooters in Vicksburg.

He said it will use a limited number of scooters operating in a certain area “until we get a better understanding of how frequently they’ll be utilized and what are they being used for — to get to restaurants, attractions, to get to work; there’s a great number of things they can do.”

Gomez said the scooters will be monitored using a data board the company will share with the city.

“The city will be able to see at any given time the number of rides they have per day, per week, how many are actually going on, the distance of the ride, and they can trace a map to see where the rides actually went,” he said.

People wanting to use a scooter can download an app to their cell phone to find one. The app gives the location of the scooter and tells the person how much power is remaining on its battery.

Using the app, the rider scans the scooter to unlock it and ride to their destination, where the scooter is parked.

Payment for use of the scooter can be made by a credit card or debit card within the app. Money from the card is deposited into a “wallet” on the app and used to pay for the rides. The charge is an initial $1 fee and then 25 cents a minute.

Gomez said the scooters will be placed at strategic places in town.

“We’ve gotten with the mayor’s office and the traffic department; they’ve given us an idea where they want them and we’re going to test that for 30 days, and then we’ll come back and decide if that’s the most viable spots for those scooters to be placed,” he said.

Gomez said Blue Duck will rent a warehouse to store the scooters and hire residents to charge, maintain and service them. The scooters will be lined up and be serviced in the morning, afternoon and evening.

“They will be left out overnight, but they’ll only be ridable from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said. “We have GPS tracking and can shut them off from the computer.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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