While locals may always remember 2018 for the ‘summer of the scooter,’ the official City-run pilot program to get a handle on dockless, shared e-scooters and bikes begins today.

The program will launch with 2,000 scooters divided between companies Bird (750), Lime (750), Jump (250) and Lyft (250) and 1,000 e-bikes from Jump (500) and Lyft (500).

In the course of the 16-month pilot, the operators will be able to increase the number of devices based on utilization and performance.

“This pilot program builds upon the City’s existing Breeze Bike Share system, and expands Santa Monica’s commitment to be a truly multi-modal community that offers residents and visitors a variety of sustainable and convenient transportation options,” said the City’s public information officer Constance Farrell.

The pilot launches as the City Council considers ways to better tackle disruptive technology in the future. Various problems associated with the scooters, including rampant vehicle code violations, cluttered sidewalks and underage usage demanded public resources from a police department and city staff already dealing with housing and homeless crises and rising crime.

“I’ve said several times … this is going to happen again, and again, and again,” said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich at a recent public meeting, where the Council approved an RFP (request for proposal) to elicit help from a team of experts.

The Council began discussions a year ago on how to deal with rapidly changing technology and the ensuing economic impact. The local economy as already seen declining tax revenue from retail on the Third Street Promenade as more shoppers turn to the internet and declining parking revenue as transportation shifts to rideshare and the Expo Line. On Sept. 26, 2017, the Council held a study session and asked staff to look broadly at potential changes to the economy.

“Let’s face it, not a single one of us that night knew that within the next 50 weeks there would be a $2 billion company located in Santa Monica providing electric scooters for rent on our streets,” Councilmember Kevin McKeown said Tuesday in reference to Bird.

Over the last year, staff researched and hosted two panel discussions to set priorities. They identified artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and customization as key areas sure to rattle the local economy in the coming years, according to a report by management fellow Julie Wedig. Artificial intelligence, in particular, threatens jobs across industries, as sophisticated computers get better than humans at various tasks and threaten jobs.

“I’m having trouble seeing what this apocalyptic world is going to look like,” Himmelrich said.

“I’d say you’re absolutely right in those concerns,” said Andy Agle, the City’s director of economic development. “We’re already seeing the loss of traditionally good-paying, middle-class jobs. We’re seeing that now. It’s expected it’s going to continue.”

Rather than a tightly scripted scope of work, the RFP will present various questions the city is facing ask for a partnership to address the concerns. The partnership will be open to private companies, nonprofits and schools.

Meanwhile, the scooter pilot will focus on tracking demand and establishing best practices for the new mobility option.

kate@smdp.com

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press

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