When one of the batteries powering electric scooters operated by the company Scoot in San Francisco needs to be recharged, a worker simply swaps the dead battery with a charged one, eliminating a need to haul off the entire device to a charging center.
This simple procedure could reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled on San Francisco streets, an aim of the city’s sustainability efforts.
This was but one of the criteria the city considered as it evaluated 12 applications from scooter operators, vying for a chance to be one of five companies to operate the small battery-powered electric scooters as part of the Powered Scooter Pilot Program.
“While no application was flawless, we selected only the applicants with the strongest proposals for this one-year pilot program. Scoot and Skip demonstrated a high level of commitment to our city’s values of prioritizing public safety, promoting equity, ensuring accountability and safeguarding our shared, public spaces,” said Ed Reiskin, director of transportation at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), in a statement.
The move to use the regulation and operation of scooters to advance its own priorities around areas like sustainability, safety and equity is an approach also being taken in other cities as they strive to encourage a number of transportation options for residents and visitors, while also curtailing some of the less desirable effects of the nascent app-based shared-mobility industry.
“Taken as a whole, Scoot and Skip’s applications demonstrated not only a commitment to meet the terms of the permit, but a high level of capability to operate a safe, equitable and accountable scooter-share service,” said Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA, in an email. “Both companies submitted strong proposals with detailed, unique and innovative approaches that demonstrated the highest level of commitment to solving known challenges and concerns, ranging from public safety and user education, to equitable access and collaboration with the city and its diverse communities.”
San Francisco, like many cities, was caught off-guard when scooter companies dumped dozens of the devices on city streets. With little or no oversight, the devices were soon found blocking public rights-of-way and creating a general nuisance on sidewalks and other areas.
Since then, cities have been quick to respond with new regulations spelling out how and where the devices are to be operated, placing limits on the number of scooters introduced into a city, and using the opportunity to address other needs.
In San Francisco, the company Skip aims to deploy 20 percent of its scooters “in San Francisco’s underserved southeastern communities,” according to an SFMTA press release. The company will also offer a 50 percent discount to low-income users.
Both Scoot and Skip expressed a strong willingness to place a premium on public safety. Skip plans to deploy “ambassadors” to offer helmets and advise users how to operate the devices and where to place them when the ride is complete.
Electric scooters, bikes and other devices may also end up being revenue sources for cities. The annual e-scooter permit fee in San Francisco is $25,000, along with a $5,000 application fee. By comparison, in Denver the permit fee is set at $15,000 annually with a $150 application fee along with $20 per bike and $30 per scooter.