A week after local scooter-share companies shut down their devices to protest a potential shut out of an upcoming pilot program, 180 businesses have signed on to a letter asking the city to extend the timeline for selecting the winners of the open bid process. The City is quickly trying to launch a pilot program in September, where up to four companies will be selected to run dockless bike or scooter operations here.
A selection committee recently recommended Lyft and Jump (which is owned by Uber) to participate in the program over the two start-ups already running in the city. More than a dozen start-ups applied to participate in the 18-month pilot. Bird and Lime’s temporary permits expire before the pilot begins.
“We are hopeful that Santa Monica will choose to continue partnering with a proven company that continues to provide Santa Monica riders with best-in-class technology,” a Lime spokesperson said in response to questions about the letter.
The Daily Press obtained a copy of the letter Monday, which is dated August 17, the last day of public comment before Planning Director David Martin chooses the companies. He’s expected to announce his selection by the end of the month.
“We are writing on behalf of Santa Monica businesses to advocate for an extension of the timeline for pilot program applications to be properly evaluated and to ask for more transparency in the evaluation process,” the letter said.
Businesses signed onto the letter include Cha Cha Chicken, Coral Tree Cafe, Bay Cities Deli, Rocco’s Cheesecake, The Hive, Santa Monica Music Center and Sweaty Betty.
Several of the listed businesses have already partnered with Lime, which launched in Santa Monica earlier this summer, to allow onsite scooter parking, trip credits for customers and a digital flag within the Lime app’s mapping system. The start-up promised to tap into its “LimeHub” network to distribute free helmets to first-time riders in its application to participate in the pilot.
The letter said Lime, in particular, has “clearly learned how to improve their service in Santa Monica.”
Businesses can also partner with locally based Bird Scooters to serve as a docking point for electric scooters.
The owner of Aussie Pie Kitchen signed onto the letter but said he didn’t have a preference which companies operate here as long as users behave better.
“We’re interested in more transparency,” Nick Bishop said. Bishop said the scooters help customers quickly get from downtown to his cafe on Main Street (which will close later this month). “I think it’s a good thing if it’s under control.”
The selection committee made up of city staffers and a Santa Monica Police Department traffic officers graded thirteen applications on experience, operations, ability to launch, public education, compliance, financials, parking and safety and insurance. Lime came in fourth overall, behind Lyft, Jump and Spin, in the scooter category. Bird came in tenth overall.
“Bird is a home-grown Santa Monica company that for almost a year has been delivering on our mission of getting more cars off the road to reduce traffic and carbon emissions. Last week alone, over 14,000 emails were sent to the City of Santa Monica by residents, businesses, and community organizations urging officials to allow Bird’s continued service of the city. We are so grateful for this enormous support from our hometown, and we are hopeful that Santa Monica will continue to work with us under its new pilot program,” said a Bird spokesperson.