The City of Santa Monica is proposing new rules to limit the number of dockless vehicles in the city, including the now ubiquitous scooters from companies like Bird and Lime.

Staff is proposing a pilot program that would cap the total number of devices in the city at 1,500 split between up to three companies. The cap could increase to 2,250 depending on the results of the pilot. In addition, companies would be required to adhere to minimum operating requirements in seven categories including maintenance, education, safety, customer service, data sharing and insurance/indemnification. The program will be up for discussion at this Tuesday’s City Council Meeting.

Two companies are currently operating in Santa Monica, Bird, and Lime. Both companies offer electric scooters via a smartphone app for an initial fee of $1 and 15 cents per minute thereafter. Riders can pick up a scooter from wherever they find it and leave it at their destination.

Bird is native to Santa Monica and while it’s proved popular with users, the City administration has been less enamored with the company.

The City filed a lawsuit against the company that was eventually settled for $300,000 plus concessions from the company regarding its educational outreach and distribution operations.

The City has been regulating the companies under a temporary emergency ordinance that specifies dockless vehicles are subject to the city’s vending regulations and established an impound fee of $60 when the vehicles pose “an immediate hazard or obstruct access.”

According to staff, SMPD has been actively enforcing laws related to the scooters. Officers have conducted 623 stops and issued 302 citations in the first three months of 2018, and over 809 stops and issuing 366 citations in the month of May.

“We’re proud that Santa Monica was Bird’s first city, and since launching just nine months ago our riders have taken 577,930 rides. If one assumes that just half of these Bird rides replaced a one-mile car trip, then according to EPA data, Santa Monica riders have prevented 257,372 pounds of carbon emissions, pollution that contributes to climate change,” said Bird Spokesperson Kenneth Baer.

“We are glad the city of Santa Monica is moving forward with an ordinance allowing us to continue to provide our convenient and affordable transportation solution. However, we are disappointed to see that the proposed ordinance introduces a cap on the number of vehicles as it will severely undercut our ability to serve all of the neighborhoods and residents of Santa Monica. If the ordinance is put into place as introduced, then electric mobility companies like Bird will need to put scooters only in the areas of densest use, limiting our potential to help all people get out of cars, reduce traffic and cut carbon emissions.”

Staff said the pilot program won’t impede existing efforts to regulate the companies.

“This does not deter the City from issuing citations to individual violators of the California Vehicle Code, nor preclude ongoing educational efforts to promote responsible behavior from all who share our city streets,” said the staff report. “Instead, the pilot proposal is designed to directly address the new and very real challenges posed by the introduction of large numbers of new mobility devices. Staff believes this approach is consistent with the Council’s Strategic Goal of promoting a new model of mobility for Santa Monica and the Council’s adoption of Vision Zero to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from roadway collisions.”

Lime Spokeswoman, Mary Caroline Pruitt said the company will work with regulators.

“We applaud the City of Santa Monica for embracing innovative shared mobility in a more formalized manner and look forward to continued collaboration as they work to further establish a regulatory framework around scooters,” she said. “We support regulations that prioritize rider safety and accessibility, but also enable Lime to provide affordable, equitable transportation by allowing us to have enough scooters to serve the entirety of the City, including areas that are underserved.”

Staff has recommended all permits for the companies would expire in September of this year to allow implementation of the proposed 16-month pilot program.

Council will meet on Tuesday, June 12 in City Hall, 1685 Main St. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. with open session beginning no earlier than 6:30 p.m.

editor@smdp.com

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