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Downtown Santa Monica
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City Council extends shared scooter, bike pilot program

The Santa Monica City Council recently voted to extend Santa Monica's Shared Mobility Pilot Program, which has enabled 2,673,819 trips on e-scooters and e-bikes over the last year, half of which replaced car trips. 

The extension through May 2020 will pave the way for a second pilot program with intensified regulations that facilitates greater customer reliability and affordability, and more effectively achieves safety and public outcomes, city officials said. Council directed staff to come back in early 2020 with a second pilot that advances the following goals:

Improve safe riding with a focus on sidewalk safety and develop systems that manage user behavior when operating and parking devices.

Offer more affordable pricing for lower-income users to ensure that shared mobility remains an accessible transportation option for all community members.

Increase efforts to incentivize the use of designated parking zones and penalize users who park devices illegally.

Ensures fees generated continue to support infrastructure projects that improve bike and scooter safety.

"Scooters and e-bikes are undoubtedly popular and user data tells us people are riding them instead of hopping in a car," Mayor Gleam Davis said. "These shared micro mobility devices have aided in advancing our mobility, sustainability, and wellbeing goals, but there's still work to refine regulations, improve safe use, and incentivize equitable access for people of all incomes. Working with micro mobility companies in a cooperative manner will allow us to make further progress as the technology and the industry evolves."

For the second pilot, Council expressed openness to reducing the number of operators. They also discussed improving the model for the public to report issues to scooter companies, focusing parking drop zones in the street, and exploring viability of a re-envisioned Breeze Bike Share Program, which was enacted by the City before shared mobility companies like Jump and Bird entered the scene. 

Council will vote on the second pilot in early 2020 with implementation in the spring.

The City created the Shared Mobility Pilot Program after Bird flooded Downtown Santa Monica streets with e-scooters that relied on GPS technology and people's smartphones. At the time, no local laws, permits or requirements existed to manage this new transportation option. Other companies quickly followed Bird's lead, creating significant challenges as users began leaving scooters everywhere and anywhere, blocking sidewalks, driveways and access to bus stops. The Council saw the technology's potential and instead of banning the scooters and e-bikes decided to work with these start-ups so that people would have another way of moving around town. 

The pilot kicked off in September 2018 with four operators selected through a competitive selection process: Bird, Jump, Lime, and Lyft. Through the pilot program's performance-based fleet cap system, the collective fleet size reached a peak of 3,250 devices by September 2019 after an initial launch of 2,500 devices. The program included enforcement and program management roles necessary to oversee private company operations and public safety on our streets. 

Over the course of the pilot, staff have had regular meetings with the four companies, monitored operations and ridership data, conducted two users surveys (4,200 completed responses) and one community wide survey (1,261 completed responses), and organized ten meetings of a Community Advisory Committee to inform program evaluation and consider potential next steps. Staff actively oversaw the program to respond to community concerns, identify and implement necessary program adjustments, and communicate and track the performance of the operators over time. 

Here are key findings from a summary of the pilot program, courtesy of Kyle Kozar, the City's bike share coordinator. 

• Users took 2,673,819 trips from October 2018 through September 2019.  

• The average trip time was 14 minutes and the trip length was 1.3 miles.  

• People used shared mobility devices most often for short work-related trips (29 percent), recreation (26 percent), eating out (14 percent), commuting (11 percent) and shopping (8 percent). 

• Nearly half (49 percent) of shared mobility trips replaced trips that would have otherwise been made by car, either driving alone or ride-hailing using Lyft or Uber. 

• 39 percent of trips replaced walking trips—in some cases serving as a walking accelerator for those commuting or running errands. 

The City took a strong role in enforcement and public education, which dramatically reduced code violations and increased public awareness about the program and how to ride safely and legally. Eighty-five percent of riders and 90 percent of the general public reported a general awareness of the pilot's basic parking and riding rules.  

During the pilot program the City installed 107 parking and pick-up zones citywide to maintain order on the streets, and painted 19 miles of bike lanes green, creating greater visibility. 

Police issued 299 citations for 929 violations and impounded over 1,200 devices for blocking access or for being parked in the street, and other violations. 

"A great deal of progress was made during the pilot program, and many operational areas improved with diligent efforts by City and operator staff," Kozar wrote on the City's blog. "Shared micro-mobility devices served millions of trips, half of which would have otherwise been taken in a car. The devices helped people get to destinations all over Santa Monica for work, recreation, dining, and shopping. Yet, the delivery of public outcomes such as equity, safety, affordability, rider behavior, sustainability, and reliability still need substantial improvement."


This article was repurposed from a City of Santa Monica press release and blog post.