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Scooters, Then and Now

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Scooter on the bike path.

New mobility services and technologies promise to fill gaps in our transportation system and make it more effective, more sustainable, and more equitable.  But we know that without careful management, new mobility can have unintended consequences.  That is why the SFMTA is holding a community discussion on April 2nd to get feedback at the halfway point of our Powered Scooter Share permit program.

Scooter Permits: How We Got Here

San Francisco experienced how fast transportation innovation is happening when powered shared scooters quickly emerged on the city’s streets this past spring. Recognizing both the concerns and the potential benefits this new mode created for the City, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance in April 2018 that any company operating shared, powered scooters in San Francisco must have a permit from the SFMTA to park their scooters on sidewalks or other public spaces. In October, the SFMTA began a 12-month pilot permit program with two companies— Scoot and Skip—to collect data and evaluate whether further increases in scooters would serve the public interest.

The SFMTA must ensure City policies shape and dynamically plan for innovative technologies. Rather than be reactive, the SFMTA has adopted its Emerging Mobility Guiding Principles with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to ensure innovative changes happen in a way that respects our unique city, its communities and values.

As part of their permit applications, the permitted companies committed to a range of initiatives about how they would adhere to the Guiding Principles, including how they will minimize their impact on San Francisco's sidewalks, while maximizing transparency to the public. Specifically, operators are required to provide user education, be insured, share trip data with the City, have a privacy policy that safeguards user information, offer a low-income plan, and submit a proposed service area plan for SFMTA approval. As part of their applications, operators also needed to provide a plan that addresses sidewalk riding and sidewalk parking. We want to hear from members of the public about whether the permit program and scooter companies have successfully managed these challenges.

The Community Discussion

The SFMTA will host a community discussion, on April 2nd from 6 to 8 pm at Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission Street, addressing the key areas of safety, disabled access, equity, distribution of scooters and outreach.  The permitted scooter sharing companies made specific commitments about their plans in each of these areas that correspond to our Emerging Mobility Guiding Principles.  We will ask the public to participate in small group discussions about how the SFMTA can ensure that the scooter share permit program in keeping with our city’s values.

Next Steps

The SFMTA will combine input received during the community discussion with the technical findings of the six-month evaluation. Together, the analysis of the program will be presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors on April 16, 2019.

During the first six months of the pilot, a total of 1,250 scooters were permitted. The permit program also gives the SFMTA the option to increase the total number of scooters to 2,500 in months seven through 12. The SFMTA is evaluating whether increasing the number of scooters on our streets would help us meet our city’s transportation goals.