Why a TriMet Executive Is Packing His Bags to Work for E-Scooter Startup Bird

Five questions for Maurice Henderson.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation hosted an e-scooter safety event on Thursday, Sept. 13 as part of its ongoing education efforts during PBOT's Electric Shared Scooter Pilot Program. (PBOT)

This month, e-scooter company Bird snapped up TriMet official Maurice Henderson to work nationally on the rollout of the sometimes reviled, sometimes beloved two-wheeled machines. Henderson has spent just under seven months at TriMet as the agency's chief operating officer. Before that, he spent a year and a half as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's chief of staff. WW asked him why he's going off to live in Bend and work on scooters.

Maurice Henderson

Why Bird?
I have always been focused on equal opportunity and access. The whole industry around shared mobility, particularly around e-scooters and e-bikes and dockless bikes, is really exciting. I can be more entrepreneurial and a little bit more innovative. Not to say the government doesn't allow that, but it's just a different pace.

What problems can you help solve?
The biggest thing is the behavior. It is people who have demonstrated an inability to follow some of the basic rules of the road. Companies are pretty explicit about: "Ride with the helmet on. Don't use this on the sidewalk. Don't take it into parks." But people are people, and they are going to do what they want to do. I know [Bird is] working on different tools that would help model better behavior that we're looking for.

Your tenure at TriMet will be seven months. Is there an accomplishment you're especially satisfied with?
We've gone through the largest expansion of service in the [agency's] history, working not only to roll out those services but do it in a way that meets your needs. Obviously, fare enforcement has been an issue that's been very hotly debated. Our new executive director for safety and security [was] the only hire I've had an opportunity to make but certainly the best one I had to make.

There's a push among social and racial justice groups to completely eliminate TriMet's fares. What do you think of that idea?
I think it is meritorious of conversation. I think the business model for transit today doesn't support that. I don't know where the region or state would come up with the nearly $150 million we do at the fare box annually.

How's Ted Wheeler doing?
I know he's had some frustration. I know he's had some good wins. I know sometimes those wins don't always get recognized. But I know he cares. He's been willing to take the bumps and bruises.

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