Electric scooter start-up Lime has offered the city of Santa Monica $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements as part of their application to participate in a pilot program launching next month, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Planning Director David Martin is expected to announce which companies will be allowed to operate dockless rideshare businesses in the city Thursday.

The process has heated up since an official selection committee of city staff and a Santa Monica Police Department traffic officer recommended awarding contracts to Lyft and Jump (which is owned by Uber) earlier this month. Martin has the final say in which companies will participate in the 18-month pilot and is not bound by the committee’s recommendations.

Both Lime and Bird Scooters’ temporary permits to operate in Santa Monica expire before the pilot begins, meaning they may be pushed out of the city if they do not win a bid. The City Council created the pilot program to rein the burgeoning industry with rampant bad behavior by users who often ride on sidewalks and without helmets and leave the devices in the public right-of-way. There have been several serious accidents since Bird launched in September, according to a recent city report.

The selection committee results further escalated the scooter wars, with more than a dozen companies battling for the opportunity to operate in one of the most progressive cities in America. Bird and Lime launched a public campaign to stay, staging a protest outside City Hall and shuttering operations during a “day without a scooter.”

Both companies are making their case to staff and the public. While hundreds of Bird and Lime employees rallied outside at the protest, Bird’s lobbyists led executives to meetings with the city’s unelected officials.

Lime has filed an addendum to their initial application for the pilot and offered $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements like bike lanes and parking areas. The company declined to comment on the infrastructure funding offer.

While Bird scooters still zip down the Strand, Lime has launched new technology to geofence prohibited areas. Now when a scooter hits the beach, Palisades Park, or the Third Street Promenade, the speed automatically decreases from about 15 miles an hour to eight. The Strand became the epicenter for resident discord with the scooters this summer, as the number of scooters on the path made it difficult to ride bikes without getting into an accident. Police say they have issued approximately 1,000 citations to riders throughout the city and confiscated about $3,000 scooters.

Lime’s Director of Strategic Development Sam Dreiman told the Daily Press they have been working on the geofencing technology for months, but the tech required an overhaul of the GPS tracking system on each scooter. Now the scooters ping more frequently, allowing the devices to adjust speed in real time if a rider goes into a prohibited area.

“On a broader level, we’re really doing our best to listen to what the community has to say and what the city has to say,” Dreiman said. “That includes hiring locally. We have dozens and dozens of people working on this every day.”

In addition to the geofencing, riders will not be able to unlock scooters left in prohibited areas or find them on the app.

Both Lyft and Jump offered to also geofence scooters from prohibited areas if granted a bid to operate in the city.



In a previous version of this story, we used the word “negotiation” to describe the process for establishing a scooter pilot program. While companies have sent information to the City regarding their applications, city staff (including David Martin) have not responded to or engaged with any companies regarding their applications. This story has also been updated to reflect Lime’s offer was larger than initially reported.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press

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