D.C. could welcome as many as a dozen operators of electric scooters and dockless bikes next year, up from six who are currently participating in a pilot program that runs until the end of 2018. That means the number of dockless vehicles on D.C. streets may increase significantly.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) says it received 16 applications from 12 companies for 2019 dockless vehicle permits before the application period ended on Nov. 21. Under new regulations that DDOT announced earlier this month, companies are required to obtain separate permits for electric scooters and dockless bikes, as compared with a single permit for both types of vehicles under the pilot. The 12 companies and permits sought are:
- Lime (scooters and bikes)
- Spin (scooters)
- Lyft (scooters)
- Ridecell (scooters and bikes)
- HOPR/cyclehop (scooters and bikes)
- Jump (scooters and bikes)
- Skip (scooters)
- Wind (scooters)
- VeoRide (scooters)
- Razor (scooters)
- Bird (scooters)
- Riide (bikes)
“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,” says DDOT spokesman Terry Owens in a statement. WTOP was the first to report how many 2019 permit applications the agency received.
DDOT is reviewing the applications and is set to announce the awards “in the next few weeks,” Owens says. Each new permit will let a company offer as many as 600 bikes or scooters in D.C., so, theoretically, 9,600 total vehicles (3,000 bikes plus 6,600 scooters) could initially be permitted next year if every company receives the permits it requested.
As of now, Bird, Skip, Spin, Lime, Lyft, and Uber-owned Jump deploy dockless vehicles in the District. Only Jump provides a fleet that is completely composed of electric bikes—the five other operators predominately offer electric scooters at present. The companies have been capped at 400 vehicles each (whether bikes or scooters, or both) in the pilot period.
“DDOT developed the initial cap per permit after careful consideration using historical caps and observing best practices among other US cities,” says a recent FAQ by the agency. The new regulations for dockless vehicles, effective in January, will enable operators to expand their respective scooter and bike fleets by 25 percent on a quarterly basis, if given approval by DDOT. Scooter speeds will be restricted to 10 mph and electric bike speeds to 20 mph.
Many of the companies involved in the pilot program have complained that these rules will prohibit the growth of non-car modes of transit in the District and make it difficult to spread dockless vehicles evenly across the city. Some have said the 600-vehicle-per-permit cap is too strict and others have criticized the 10 mph speed limit on electric scooters as baseless.
Scooter operator Bird wrote in a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser on Nov. 11 that the ceiling on fleet sizes “eliminates any chance of this program being equitable, of solving issues related to transportation deserts in the city, and ultimately of getting more cars off the road.” After the rules came out, Bird, Spin, and Skip all said they were concerned about the speed limit.
But Owens, the spokesman for DDOT, says the increase in permit applications for providing dockless vehicles in 2019 “suggests that these companies see the District as a viable place to do business,” and that the new rules will not prevent companies from operating successfully.
This week, New York City legislators introduced bills to legalize electric bikes and scooters.