The District earlier this month had selected four of the eight companies to deploy as many as 10,000 scooters in the new year, nearly twice as many as are available today. But some of the companies that were left out of the program challenged the city’s selection method and sought to appeal.
The District Department of Transportation said Friday it will consider “all valid appeals” submitted no later than Jan. 2 and will issue a final decision on the program by Feb. 28. In the meantime, all 2019 permit holders will get a three-month extension to operate in the city.
In early December, DDOT selected Uber’s Jump, Lyft, Skip and Spin to continue operations under the 2020 permit, allowing each company to deploy as many as 2,500 scooters starting Jan. 1 for a total of 10,000 scooters, or nearly double the number of devices currently available for rent in the city. In addition, the city issued two permits for e-bike operations to allow a total of 5,000 e-bikes beginning Jan. 1.
Scooter companies Lime and Bird, two of the early entrants into the scooter scene in the District and nationwide, and Bolt and Razor, which had arrived in the city more recently, didn’t make the cut. Some of those companies challenged DDOT’s scoring system and selection process.
An interagency committee rated the applications on a 198-point scale and selected the top point-earners, officials said. The scoring evaluated factors including innovation, safety, labor practices, dedication to accessibility and accountability. Successful applicants had to earn a minimum of 121 points, but only the four highest-scoring applicants were granted 2020 permits. Bird, Lime and Razor all secured more than 121 points but ranked below their competitors.
Executives with Bird and Lime said they are pleased with the extension and appeal review.
“We look forward to continuing our conversations with the city and remain committed to providing sustainable, safe transportation to residents of the District of Columbia,” a Bird spokeswoman said.
Robert Gardner, Lime’s director of government relations for the Washington region, said in an email: “We are eager to continue providing district residents with the high-quality service they have come to expect from Lime. We are committed to DC and will continue to explore our options to serve the city beyond March.”
Bird and Lime, which rolled out their scooters in D.C. in March 2018, had touted their roots in the region and gains in building community connections to make their services more accessible citywide. Even though the companies have a presence in other parts of the region, the District is their busiest market.
It is unclear how DDOT will evaluate the appeals and whether the process will lead to the agency’s including more companies than the four already selected. City officials had said having a smaller number of operators would allow for better oversight and response to public complaints about issues such as badly parked scooters. It also would make the program more manageable for users who wouldn’t have to navigate among multiple apps to find their next ride.
Some people familiar with the discussions say the agency could end up adding more operators and changing the share of vehicles each company can operate in the 10,000 cap.
The companies operating during the extension period will continue to abide by the 2019 rules, DDOT said, keeping existing fleet size maximums and paying fees per device on the ground. The eight companies operate up to 5,235 scooters combined.
The two e-bike permits for 2020 will go into effect in January as planned. Those permits allow Jump and HelBiz, a new company to the District, to deploy up to 2,500 e-bikes each.