After a rocky start in San Francisco, electric scooter rentals will soon be back on city streets thanks to a pilot program that’s tentatively granting two companies permission to operate.
The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) on Aug. 30 granted one-year permits to two companies, Skip and Scoot, to temporarily re-launch electric scooter rentals within city limits starting Oct. 12.
The companies are now allowed to release 625 scooters starting Oct. 12, eventually growing to 2,500 in the second half of the year.
The two companies beat out 10 other applicants due to its diligence to public opinion, said Sanjay Dastoor, CEO and co-founder of Skip Scooters.
“We listened to the concerns expressed by SFMTA and other groups in San Francisco,” he said. “Then [we] tried to address them in our proposal.”
The previously unregulated scooters have been blamed for a litany of problems, including machines being dropped off all over sidewalks and streets. The Washington Post also reported that scooters were involved in 34 serious accidents this year in Santa Monica.
Complaints between city officials and residents eventually reached a breaking point, leading Supervisor Aaron Peskin to call electric scooter companies “arrogant” in an April 17 Board of Supervisors meeting. On June 4, the city banned scooter rentals.
Skip outlined some of its plans to address safety concerns.
“Skip is developing situations to establish appropriate drop-off points and encourage good parking behavior, ” Dastoor said.
“We also encourage safety through in-app training, and include basic safety information printed on every scooter. Skip also has a helmet safety program where we give away helmets wherever our scooters are on the ground.”
Over the next 12 months, the SFMTA will evaluate the scooter program to inform future decisions, said SFMTA representative Ben Jose.
In reviewing applications submitted under a new Powered Scooter Share and Permit program, most companies fell short on community outreach, Jose said.
“The SFMTA will outline the agency’s expectations for community engagement prior to issuance of the first permit […] based on experience with bikeshare and other shared mobility programs in San Francisco,” Jose said.
Skip outlined some provisions in its proposal to address community outreach, where it received a “Fair” rating.
“We periodically host in-person pop-ups and are quickly expanding our team to be a part of community events where riders can practice driving and parking,” Dastoor said.
“Skip also prioritizes accessibility for low income communities and provides a plan for qualified low income riders that includes 50 percent off every ride.”
Spin, a company rejected by SFMTA, believes it has a chance in the next round of permits.
“Spin remains committed to being accessible to underserved neighborhoods, and serving as a first-and-last mile lifeline from transit hubs,” Spin spokesperson Ariella Steinhorn said.