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More scooter companies aim to break into the D.C. market

The District’s streets could have as many as 7,000 shared scooters and 3,000 dockless bicycles by early 2019.

The District Department of Transportation is reviewing applications from 12 start-ups looking to operate shared scooters and bicycles in the nation's capital next year. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A dozen transportation start-ups are vying for permits to operate shared scooters and bicycles in the nation’s capital next year. If all are approved, the number of companies operating personal mobility services in the District would double, and the devices available for rent could reach 10,000 by spring.

The District Department of Transportation is reviewing applications from 12 companies, including six already operating in the city under an extended pilot program ending this year. Those companies want to be part of an expanded, permanent program that will allow them to enlarge their fleets — though they will be subject to additional fees and regulations.

“We are pleased by the growing interest from companies seeking to expand or launch operations in the District and excited about the potential of these new transportation options for residents and visitors,” said DDOT spokesman Terry Owens.

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Under the expanded program, each company will be allowed to operate 600 scooters — up from 400. Start-ups then can request their fleet be increased up to 25 percent every quarter after a DDOT evaluation. Companies that meet performance measures and maintain safe and high-quality operations could be operating up to 1,200 scooters in the District by the end of 2019.

E-scooter companies that want to continue operating in the District also will need to offer a cash-payment option to customers and restrict scooter speeds to 10 mph. The city will charge companies a fee of up to $5 a month per scooter or bicycle — which could add up to $36,000 annually per company.

Companies operating bikes and scooters are required to apply for separate permits for each mode. Four companies have done so, and if approved, each will be allowed up to 600 bikes and 600 scooters.

The city is reviewing 16 applications from 12 companies. Scooter providers Bird, Lime, Lyft, Skip and Spin (owned by Ford) plan to continue scooter operations. Lime, which began its services as a bicycle provider but replaced its bikes with scooters over the summer, is also applying for a bicycle fleet. Jump (owned by Uber) is seeking a permit to continue its popular electric-bike service and has filed for a permit to deploy e-scooters.

New entrants are scooter companies Wind, VeoRide and Razor. Ridecell and HOPR/Cyclehop are applying for scooters and bikes, and Riide wants to bring in bicycles.

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D.C. transportation officials said they will make a determination on the applicants before the end of the year. The high number of applicants is a good sign that the District continues to be a magnet for innovators, they said, and that its regulatory approach isn’t scaring away companies.

“The growing interest suggests these companies see the District as a viable place to do business and that the proposed dockless regulations do not prohibit companies from operating successfully,” Owens said.

The District has been criticized for taking a slow-growth approach toward the services, but companies say they want to continue to work with the city to grow and answer demand from residents and visitors who have embraced the scooters as another mode of transportation to navigate the capital and a busy downtown area.

If all the applicants are approved and launch the maximum number of vehicles, the city would have nearly 10,000 scooters. That would put it halfway to the 20,000 industry leaders and supporters say is needed in a place like Washington.