“Having fewer companies enables us to more effectively manage the program and create an easier user experience for people who are hoping to access these,” DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said in explaining the decision.
“We’re obviously disappointed by the ruling and are actively exploring ways to continue serving District residents in 2020,” a Lime spokesman said. “We’re proud of our partnership we’ve enjoyed with the District, the community organizations we support, and our performance as the longest-serving operator in the city.”
Since their arrival in 2017, scooters have become a popular option for those looking for an easy way to move around the District, which was one of the first U.S. cities to allow the services to operate. And while the two-wheeled vehicles have their share of detractors, there is no sign they are going away.
In October, the city announced plans to reduce the number of scooter operators in the District to four. Four slots were also set aside for e-bike operators. Thirteen scooter companies and five e-bike companies applied, according to DDOT. An interagency committee evaluated the applications on a 198-point scale and selected the top point-earners — Jump, Lyft, Skip and Spin.
The selection of Skip raised some eyebrows after one of its scooters caught fire last summer. The company suspended operations for six weeks and acknowledged that past safety lapses had contributed to the scooter fire downtown and another at its warehouse involving batteries. The city allowed the company to resume operating in August, saying it had demonstrated that it was taking “clear steps” to ensure it was following best safety practices.
Under the new rules, the four companies can apply to expand their fleets on a semiannual basis. DDOT says it will grant expansions after evaluating a company’s performance. For example, a company that starts with 2,500 scooters in April could potentially have 5,000 in service. If all four companies were to be approved for the maximum expansion, there could be 20,000 scooters operating in the city.
As part of their agreement to operate in the District, the companies must allow DDOT to install GPS trackers on a random sample of devices for research purposes and also must report within 24 hours any issue that could affect public safety. That includes criminal activity, traffic crashes and fires involving their devices.
The scooter companies also will be required to provide scooters in all eight wards of the city and will be limited to a maximum of 1,000 vehicles in the central business district. The 2020 permit increases to 20 the minimum number of vehicles that must be deployed in each ward by 6 a.m. daily and establishes “equity” zones, primarily east of the Anacostia River, where companies will be required to deploy at least 400 vehicles for use during the morning rush hour.
As part of the effort to better manage complaints of scooters cluttering sidewalks, DDOT officials announced last month they are installing 100 off-sidewalk parking corrals for e-scooters and bicycles. The corrals will be placed in the area between stop signs and the start of parking zones to ensure that illegally parked cars do not block the visibility of crosswalks and intersections.
The corrals were first piloted in business-improvement districts and commercial areas where there were large numbers of dockless vehicles. The new locations will be placed in residential areas where sidewalks are narrower and more likely to be blocked when dockless scooters or bikes are left on them. (Here is a map of where the parking corrals will be placed.)
This post has been corrected to reflect that Bolt and Razor, two companies that had previously operated in the District, opted not to appeal the December decision. In addition to Lime and Bird, three other companies, Helbiz, Wheels and Clevr Mobility did appeal DDOT’s decision, but subsequently lost.