Hoverboards, the latest personal transportation fad for millennials, have just been banned in public transport across the state.
The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, a collection of 17 publicly funded colleges, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced last month that hoverboards would be prohibited, without exception. Both organizations cited the device’s serious threat to community safety. This ban comes after a number of Connecticut universities, including Yale, independently banned hoverboards due to similar safety concerns in December and January. MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said there is no blanket policy penalty for using hoverboards in areas where they are banned. But he said the New York Police Department and the MTA Police Department will police the ban at their discretion.
“Potential penalties are assessed at the court level through judicial process,” Donovan said.
This is not the first time the MTA has restricted the use of portable transportation vehicles. MTA’s Rules of Conduct prohibit skateboards, scooters and rollerblades because of their potential to harm users and those around them. However, because such vehicles are manually operated, passengers can still carry them in their hands while using public transport. Hoverboards are powered by lithium-ion batteries, a power source known to explode under certain conditions. As a result, they are not allowed on public transport even while they are not being used.
A CSCU Jan. 26 press release makes it clear that the hoverboard prohibition is consistent with CSCU’s Student Code of Conduct, which condemns behavior or activity that endangers the health, safety or well-being of others.
Gordon Plouffe, a student representative on the Connecticut Board of Regents, the body that decided on the ban, said the policy was implemented without a vote because it dealt with student safety.
“They don’t necessarily have to do it at official board meetings, which [are] the meetings I go to where we vote on policy,” Plouffe said. “They can just say, ‘Oh, those things are dangerous, we should write up a policy.’”
MTA and CSCU’s new policies will remain for now.
But Lee Peters, vice president for student affairs at the University of Hartford, said Hartford’s policy is not set in stone.
“If six months from now they’ve solved the problems and airlines are flying them again and Amazon’s selling them again, we reserve the right to redact the policy,” Peters said. “But right now, they’re too dangerous … even [kids] have to put them somewhere when they’re in class,” Peters said.
Despite the ban, there is still room for students opposed to the policy to challenge it, Plouffe said. For example, Brian Kitano ’19, a hoverboard owner, has argued that hoverboards only explode when misused. He said fires occur when users leave hoverboards charged for more than three hours, an action manufacturers already advise against.
Plouffe said he is amenable to hearing out student concerns if they bring them to the Board of Regents.
“If I find out that 30,000 students are opposed to that decision and we want to make a proposal to repeal that, that would be my responsibility to talk to the board and figure out the next steps,” he said.
However, at the moment, he, CSCU and the MTA do not see any reason to repeal the ban.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reported that 80 percent of hoverboards in a December 2015 study did not have proper certification of battery testing.