Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By David Ganezer
Observer Staff 

Santa Monica City Council Allows Scooters to Operate Until January 2020 as an Experiment

"Pilot Program to Study Feasibility ... expand sustainable mobility options equitably"

 

David Ganezer

Kids having fun on a bird scooter, which are not designed for more than one rider

Beginning in September, the City will run a 16 month program to study the feasibility of allowing electric rental scooters on City sidewalks and streets.

Bird and Lime companies created controversy by simply renting the scooters on City streets without obtaining any prior permits. Their business plan was that they would get the permits later. Bird paid a $300,000 fine to the City in January, and agreed to distribute 22,500 free helmets to riders.

The scooters can travel at about 18 miles per hour and are an attempt to solve the "Last mile" transportation problem. They cost about $4 per mile for that last mile. Proponents say they are electric, non-polluting and fun. Opponents say they are hazardous and get left blocking City sidewalks were they present an additional hazard.

New scooters retail for around $600. "Chargers" are paid $5 per scooter to gather them at night and charge them overnight in their homes, providing about $20 to $25 an hour in employment.

The City press release written by Constance Farrell is below.

Santa Monica City Council Approves Shared Mobility Pilot Program

The 16-month program will kick off in September after a competitive selection process

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – At its meeting tonight, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a 16-month pilot program for dockless, shared mobility devices, including electric scooters and bicycles. The pilot will inform the development of long-term policy solutions to expand sustainable mobility options equitably while protecting public safety on city streets and sidewalks.

"There's no denying the popularity and ease of shared mobility devices that can help Santa Monica reach its goal of being a multi-modal city," said Mayor Ted Winterer. "Yet we must balance that with a serious need to hold companies accountable to ensure responsible behavior on our streets and sidewalks. This pilot approach will allow us to understand usage and operations in order to create a long-term program that establishes a safe, equitable and sustainable mobility option in Santa Monica."

The Shared Mobility Pilot Program will:

· Set a dynamic device cap based on utilization.

· Require vendors to create interactive safety education for users and increase the availability of helmets for riders at the time of use.

· Require operators to share real-time utilization data with the City.

· Allow up to four operators to be selected to participate made up of at least two electric scooter and two electric bike options.

· Ensure equitable distribution throughout the City.

· Require operators to develop systems that will remedy improper parking, including pick up/drop off zones and incentives.

· Enhance operator customer service and responsiveness to resident and user complaints, including a 24-hour hotline.

· Set forth a broader list of recommended program components through which partners could be evaluated during the pilot term.

The goals of the program are to:

· Improve access to mobility options for residents, employees, and visitors to Santa Monica.

· Create new options that meet diverse use cases in support of a new model of mobility.

· Ensure safety and public access by reducing sideway, pathway, and ADA blockages.

· Educate users about the proper rules and etiquette for shared mobility devices.

· Create a legal and enforceable framework for managing shared mobility service providers in the PROW.

· Build a good working relationship with shared mobility providers to protect the PROW while advancing new mobility options in Santa Monica.

"A key component of this program's success is the partnership with operators, ensuring a focus on rider safety and solutions that preserve our public spaces for everyone's enjoyment," said Anuj Gupta, Deputy City Manager and Director of Policy. "This collaborative approach will position us to develop policies that expand transportation options while respecting our community's needs and mobility demands."

Structuring the program as a pilot will enable the city to:

· Develop a new area of policy, regulation, and enforcement through firsthand experience.

· Move quickly to adapt to a rapidly changing industry, but leave room to learn and adjust as appropriate.

· Test new device and service providers in a growing industry.

· Explore partnership models with private companies.

· Explore possibilities for data capture, structures, and utilization that support a multi-modal city.

· Allow the City to experiment with different management tools like geo-fencing and creation of shared mobility device drop zones. Understand impact shared devices on mode-shift.

To successfully operate the pilot program, Council approved two full-time employees – one program coordinator and one enforcement liaison – on limited-term contracts until a permanent program is established. These positions will be created by retooling existing staffing structures, and will not add new positions to the City's workforce.

The pilot program includes cost recovery to fund these positions and overall operation of the pilot. Each operator will be assessed a base operator fee of $20,000, and then a scalable per device fee of $130 per year. Council directed staff to explore a possible use of public space fee. The fees will be re-examined as the pilot program closes.

David Ganezer

Having fun on a bird scooter, which are not designed for more than one rider

Operators for the pilot program will be selected through an open application process. The City is looking for operators with experience, high-quality device and system, and a willingness to work collaboratively with the City for the duration of the pilot program. A request for applications will be posted in July, with submissions being reviewed by an inter-departmental committee and the Director of Planning and Community Development making final selections.

Vending permits for existing approved operators such as Bird and Lime expire at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2018. To facilitate a smooth transition to the pilot, Council passed an emergency ordinance last night requiring Fiscal Year 2018/19 permits for such operators to expire on September 16, 2018, just before the pilot kicks off on September 17, 2018.

 

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