LAS CRUCES – Rental scooters made their debut on New Mexico State University’s main campus in January, and after a 60-day trial period it appears they are here to stay.
The university’s police chief questioned the scooters’ legality in an email to administration, but the concerns are not enough to dissuade officials from going forward with a request for proposals.
San Francisco-based scooter company Spin, owned by the Ford Motor Company, introduced 100 battery-operated kick scooters onto campus on Jan. 18. The scooters are rented through Spin’s mobile phone app and do not work off campus.
Except for a brief interruption immediately after the launch, arising from a dispute with a local contractor, the scooters have been a familiar sight on campus.
In February, Spin reported 7,323 trips and 3,119 registered users in the first month of service to NMSU administrators and the student government.
Emerson Morrow, who was president of the Associated Students of NMSU until he stepped down on April 12, told the Sun-News the scooters are a win for students, staff and visitors to campus.
“We have a large campus that’s spread out, and nice weather most of the year,” Morrow said. “This is an ideal opportunity to explore the different ways to get around.”
Morrow said working with Spin preempted the possibility of another company simply launching scooters on campus without talking to administration, a practice called “rogue launching” in the scooter industry.
Embracing scooters on campus
In March, NMSU and Spin extended the company’s exclusive service agreement for an additional 60 days while the university gathers proposals from scooter providers for service beginning in August.
The request for proposals closes at 2 p.m. on April 30 and is accessible through NMSU’s online bidding system.
The Sun-News examined 275 pages of emails obtained through a public records request. The communications indicate the administration was planning for scooters to remain as early as the January launch.
In a group email distributed to Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President John Floros among other university officials, NMSU’s former associate vice president for facilities and services Glen Haubold wrote, “The President asked us to review the proposals for scooters, we need to complete this before the 60 days are up, and we are assuming that the trial will lead to scooters remaining on campus, since we want an agreement in place as opposed to removing scooters until we work one out.”
Haubold retired from NMSU at the end of March.
Although NMSU is not spending money to procure scooter service, Haubold wrote in February that selecting a single vendor allows the university to negotiate and enforce terms.
According to the proposed scope of work, NMSU wants a contractor to provide “a turnkey solution” for managing and equipping scooter service, without the university purchasing scooters.
The RFP also requests that the contractor provide safety training, signage, a point of contact, and to allow NMSU personnel access to distribute and redistribute the scooters.
A spokeswoman for Spin confirmed that the company is submitting a bid, but the company did not respond to interview requests.
Scooters and the law
During the 60-day trial, emails among administrators discussed accidents and reports of risky behavior with scooters, as well as potential conflicts with New Mexico law, which treats electric scooters as motor vehicles.
During New Mexico’s 2019 legislative session, state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, sponsored a bill excluding electric foot scooters from the Motor Vehicle Code. The bill did not get a floor vote.
On March 7, after an ambulance responded to a scooter-related accident near Milton Hall, campus police chief Stephen Lopez wrote an email to administrators and NMSU’s general counsel office pointing out that under current laws, scooters do not properly belong on sidewalks or on streets.
“The scooters deployed by Spin do not comply with requirements for a vehicle to operate on a roadway (such as having reflectors to the front, sides, and rear),” Lopez wrote. “Spin also has a placard affixed to the scooters that specifically says they are not allowed on sidewalks (suggesting Spin knows they are not legal on sidewalks, though that is where they are deploying them and encouraging students to ride and park them).”
What about helmets?
Under New Mexico law, safety helmets are required for bicycle and scooter riders under the age of 18 , and anyone “renting bicycles, skates, scooters or skateboards” must provide helmets for minors.
Spin states on its website that riders are required to be 18 years of age and hold a valid driver’s license, and recommends helmet use.
Yet the scooters are available to the general public on NMSU’s campus: anyone with a mobile phone containing the app and payment information may unlock a scooter.
Moreover, Spin’s user agreement permits a parent or legal guardian to allow minors as young as 13 to operate a scooter.
Lopez alerted the administration in a March 13 email that allowing a minor to ride without a helmet is a criminal offense:
“Officers will have to hold the minor until parents arrive to pick them up, and then criminally charge the parents (and anyone who provided the bicycle, scooter, or skateboard). It is a small fine ($10), but it is a criminal offense, not a ticket. Based on feedback, we have heard of some companies operating in some locals across the country providing helmets on every rental scooter. This might be something to consider if NMSU does enter into any further agreements with companies.”
Responding to an inquiry from the Sun-News, the Spin company wrote that it had distributed complimentary helmets at a campus safety event, and Morrow confirmed Spin had given out “a dozen or so.”
Spin said it planned to distribute more helmets at an unspecified future date.
“We encourage university enforcement and education, and want to keep people safe without stunting ridership,” Spin’s statement concluded.
An email following a February meeting of the university safety committee detailed staff concerns including scooters blocking doorways and wheelchair access, injuries during the first month of service, and scooters traveling at unsafe speeds.
Support from students
The majority of students who wrote to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address for feedback expressed support and gratitude for the scooters.
Morrow said, “It contributed very positively to student morale this semester.”
“We have a lot of students on campus who don’t have a car, especially international students,” Morrow said, adding he would like to see scooters move beyond campus, as they provide “a mode of transportation to go off campus, pick up groceries, to buy stuff and whatever they need to do within a reasonable distance.”
As for legal and safety issues, Morrow conceded, “I feel like there is still a lot to be figured out.”
In March, Lopez presented Arvizu and Floros with some proposed regulations and a conceptual map of authorized pathways for scooters combining existing bicycle and multiuse paths with some newly designated paths navigating the horseshoe.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to create a robust network that gets people around, without the need to ride on narrow sidewalks,” Lopez wrote.
On a conference call with the Sun-News Friday, university architect Heather Watenpaugh said, “We have pathways that get you from point A to point B, but we don’t have a loop and a network path for the scooters around campus.” She said further study would be necessary, possibly with the involvement of the selected provider.
“Right now, we’ve asked for general information on the respondents’ programs and the committee will evaluate prior to awards,” Jack Kirby, assistant director of New Mexico State University’s Environmental Health and Safety office, said.
Terms for a final contract might include a mechanical speed limit. “They can digitally set the speed limit as part of their software package,” he said, noting that during the trial period this semester, Spin reduced its scooters’ maximum speed.
With finalist interviews scheduled for May, there will be time during the summer to negotiate regulations and procedures before students return to a campus whose walkways are shared by feet, wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboards, and a fleet of electric scooters.
Read the request for proposals here:
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Water managers release Rio Grande outlook
Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press Published 7:10 p.m. MT April 18, 2019 | Updated 7:10 p.m. MT April 18, 2019ALBUQUERUQUE – Federal water managers in New Mexico had reason to celebrate Thursday as they rolled out their annual management plan for the Rio Grande, citing a “complete turnaround” from a year ago when the river was on…
Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press
Published 7:10 p.m. MT April 18, 2019 | Updated 7:10 p.m. MT April 18, 2019
ALBUQUERUQUE – Federal water managers in New Mexico had reason to celebrate Thursday as they rolled out their annual management plan for the Rio Grande, citing a “complete turnaround” from a year ago when the river was on the verge of going dry through one of its most visible stretches.
It comes after a very wet winter in New Mexico and other parts of the U.S. West. Officials with the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local water agencies gathered in Albuquerque to go over forecasts, storage expectations and predictions about how much water will be released from reservoirs along the river.
They’re more optimistic following a year that forced them to intervene to keep the river flowing through the Albuquerque area during the summer months.
“This is a complete turnaround from last year when we were preparing for drying in the middle Rio Grande in April,” said Jennifer Faler, who manages the Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque office. “We are looking forward to a good spring runoff that will improve storage supplies and help the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow spawn.”
Snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, which make up the headwaters of the river, were above average over the winter. Ski resorts around the region extended their seasons as a result and soil that had been deprived of any moisture for more than a year saw its first chance at a recharge.
April’s forecast predicts flows into El Vado Reservoir, on the upper end of the river, will be 142% of average. That’s up from just 18% last year.
Similar increases are expected farther south along the Rio Grande in Santa Fe County.
Officials also hope the increased flows will allow restrictions to be lifted that prevent more Rio Grande water from being stored in upstream reservoirs. The restrictions are part of a water-sharing compact with Texas and are triggered any time the reservoirs fall below a certain level.
Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs in southern New Mexico ended the last irrigation season holding less than 3% of their combined storage capacity.
They’re rebounding and are currently holding more than 288,000 acre-feet, or about 13% of capacity. An acre-foot is enough water to serve one to two average households a year.
The restrictions could end as soon as May, officials said.
Overall, U.S. climate experts say drought conditions are expected to continue improving across New Mexico in the coming months. Extreme and exceptional drought have disappeared from the state, but moderate to severe conditions still are lingering across much of the northwest.
The irrigation season in southern New Mexico will begin the first week of June. Federal managers plan to begin releasing water from Elephant Butte Reservoir on May 3 to prepare for the season.
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Community snapshot: April 19
Sun-News reports, Las Cruces Sun-News Published 6:03 p.m. MT April 18, 2019 Community snapshot: The Camerata Del Sol Ensemble, a string orchestra, collaborated with New Mexico State University faculty members Sarah Daughtry and Laura Spitzer and graduate student soprano Ida Holguin to perform a concert on Palm Sunday, April 14 at St. Albert Newman Center, 2615…
Sun-News reports, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 6:03 p.m. MT April 18, 2019
Community snapshot: The Camerata Del Sol Ensemble, a string orchestra, collaborated with New Mexico State University faculty members Sarah Daughtry and Laura Spitzer and graduate student soprano Ida Holguin to perform a concert on Palm Sunday, April 14 at St. Albert Newman Center, 2615 Solano Drive, in Las Cruces. The concert included “The Seven Last Words of Christ at the Cross” by Franz Joseph Haydn (arranged for string quartet and soprano by José Peris) and the “Chanson Perpétuelle” for mezzo-soprano, piano and string quartet by French composer Ernest Chausson. Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the days before his crucifixion, marked the start of Holy Week in the Catholic, as well as several other denominations’, tradition.
To submit an item for community snapshot, email photo and information to email@example.com.
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More than 1,000 migrants have now been dropped off in Las Cruces
From Staff Reports, Las Cruces Sun-News Published 3:58 p.m. MT April 18, 2019 | Updated 5:40 p.m. MT April 18, 2019Buy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoBuy PhotoAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideLAS CRUCES – Border Patrol has released more than 1,000 migrants in…
From Staff Reports, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 3:58 p.m. MT April 18, 2019 | Updated 5:40 p.m. MT April 18, 2019
LAS CRUCES – Border Patrol has released more than 1,000 migrants in Las Cruces in the past seven days.
Friday of last week, the federal agency began releasing migrants in Las Cruces because of a shortage of space at Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. Most are migrants from Central America who are seeking asylum.
In response, the city established a network of temporary shelters to house migrants while the asylum-seekers — men, women and children — look to travel elsewhere in the United States.
Border Patrol dropped off another 140 migrants by 1 p.m. Thursday, bringing the total number since last week to 1,080. More migrants were expected after 1 p.m.
Top official visits
Also Thursday, the state’s top emergency management toured shelters in Las Cruces.
Mayor Ken Miyagishima, reached about 3 p.m Thursday while he was waiting for State Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Jackie White to visit the Gospel Rescue Mission, planned to discuss other cities in New Mexico taking asylum-seekers.
He said he’s already discussed the issue with Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.
“It looks like they’ll be taking some. We just need to figure out transportation,” the mayor said.
White spoke to migrants being temporarily housed at the Gospel Rescue Mission on Thursday afternoon and helped pass out food. Just before 5 p.m., volunteers delivered about 250 meals to the shelter. Shortly after 5 p.m., Border Patrol dropped off about 24 newly arrived migrants.
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Miyagishima told the Santa Fe New Mexican that volunteers and employees helping manage the migrant drop-offs in Las Cruces are “tired” and “overworked.”
““It’s nonstop. They’re bringing them at all hours of the night, he said.
“We could easily handle 200, but not 200 a day, and that’s why I’m thinking if Santa Fe can do 150 to 200 every three days, I think it’s more manageable,” Miyagishima said. “Right now, we just can’t handle it.”
The city announced on Thursday that Las Cruces Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Daniels will assume area command of day-to-day operations concerning the migrant drop-offs.
Cullen Combs, director of the Doña Ana County/City of Las Cruces Office of Emergency Management, will take over long-term planning. Amanda Bowen, with the OEM, will become deputy commander and operations director as of Friday,
The Gospel Rescue Mission, Community of Hope and Doña Ana County Crisis Triage Center are currently housing migrants. El Calvario — which housed migrants before Border Patrol begin the drop-offs — has offered space, according to the city.
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