Capturing the Rhythm of
Downtown Santa Monica
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City approves pilot program for shared electric scooters, bikes
By Kevin Herrera

The Santa Monica City Council has unanimously approved a 16-month pilot program for dockless, shared mobility devices, including electric scooters and bicycles. The pilot will guide the development of long-term 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."



(Visitors to downtown use their smarphones to unlock two Bird electric scooters parked on Ocean Avenue.)


The Shared Mobility Pilot Program will:

•Set a dynamic cap on the number of devices in circulation based on use

•Require vendors to create interactive safety education for riders 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 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 for a diverse group of users in support of a new model of mobility

•Ensure safety and public access by reducing sidewalk, pathway, and Americans with Disabilities Act 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 public right-of-way

•Build a good working relationship with shared mobility providers to protect the public while advancing new mobility options in Santa Monica

Data provided by the companies selected for the pilot will help determine usage and what the "dynamic" caps will be for each company. City officials are still working to determine what the baseline caps will be.

"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.

A representative from the city's Code Enforcement Division will be charged with keeping the companies in check.

(Unfortunately this is a familiar site on many downtown sidewalks - scooters toppled over. But at least they're near the curb.)

"The goal is to work with operators to make sure they comply with the terms of the pilot program and to discover new tools/opportunities to rectify the issues and challenges of the scooters," said Constance Farrell, the city's public information officer. "That being said, if the selected operators do not meet the terms of the pilot program's administrative rules, their permit could be revoked and they would be ordered to remove their devices from the (public right of way). Additionally, the impound fee [of $60 per vehicle] will still exist and devices that are impounded will be at the owner's expense."

Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. staff are in contact with the city and one of the major operators, Bird, who have saturated the district with their black and white scooters. While DTSM, Inc. supports new mobility options to cut down on congestion in the downtown core, concern for public safety is high, especially on the Third Street Promenade where people on scooters are often seen zipping through at high rates of speed during peak pedestrian activity.

"We're excited about continuing to expand ways in which people can move about the downtown with or without a car, and we look forward to working with providers and the city to come up with policies that make (dockless devices) safe to use and keep our streets and sidewalks functioning efficiently," said DTSM, Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson. "We hope to explore partnerships to raise awareness about these new mobility options and the rules of the road, as well as research technologies such as geo-fencing to see how they can be incorporated to enhance safety." 

Operators for the pilot program will be selected through an open application process. The city is looking for operators with experience, high-quality devices and systems, 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 expired at the end of June. To facilitate a smooth transition to the pilot, the council passed an emergency ordinance requiring Fiscal Year 2018/19 permits for such operators to expire on Sept. 16, 2018, just before the pilot kicks off on Sept. 17, 2018.

The majority of this article was repurposed from a City of Santa Monica press release.

"We're excited about continuing to expand ways in which people can move about the downtown with or without a car, and we look forward to working with providers and the city to come up with policies that make (dockless devices) safe to use and keep our streets and sidewalks functioning efficiently." — DTSM, Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson

Kevin Herrera is a former journalist turned marketing and communication expert, beer enthusiast, cyclist, cultural observer/commentator and expert on all things Downtown Santa Monica. He is currently the sr. marketing & communication manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.