Lime can boast two million rides on their scooters and the company wants to show the City of Portland they’re ready for a long-term relationship.
As we reported last week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is looking for one or two scooter operators to take over the existing pilot program and provide a larger fleet and other upgrades in exchange for less competition and a more stable contract. One of the major changes PBOT has asked prospective vendors to make is a locking mechanism that would allow scooters to be attached to designated parking stalls.
Lime says their new Gen4 scooters are up to the task. The company announced today they’ve begun to swap out their existing fleet with upgraded scooters that include a cable lock to encourage riders to lock them to bike racks and other designated parking spots. “This will decrease street clutter and promote safety, improving the micromobility experience for everyone in the city including non-riders and other pedestrians,” a Lime statement said.
With more scooters parked in racks, PBOT will need to work extra hard to make sure there are ample spaces available for bicycle users.
The upgraded Lime scooters will also include swappable, interchangeable batteries. That means maintenance crews can re-charge scooters more efficiently in the field without having to round them up. This will reduce the vehicle miles traveled of Lime maintenance vehicles and lead to fewer carbon emissions.
Other new features of Lime’s Gen4 model are swept-back handlebars (“reminiscent of bike handles” the company says), an improved kickstand, better brakes, beefier suspension and larger wheels, and a lower deck.
Lime has operated scooters in Portland since the first pilot program began in 2018 and will soon announce riders have taken over two million rides. The company has over 1,100 scooters on the ground in Portland, more than any other vendor. They expect a full fleet swap to be completed in the next few weeks.
PBOT says all current scooter vendors can operate through fall 2022 until a new vendor (or vendors) are chosen.
After a four-year honeymoon, the City of Portland is ready to settle down with shared electric scooters.
Earlier this month the Bureau of Transportation released a request for proposals that aims to find a company to run a shared e-scooter system that would remove the current “pilot program” status and run through 2025.
The decision to double-down on scooters comes after PBOT has spent the past four years test-riding them and and analyzing impacts on car trip reduction, safety, and accessibility for people typically underserved by the transportation system. The first pilot launched in July 2018. The program had detractors, but riders voted with their feet and logged over 700,000 rides in just four months. PBOT launched a second pilot in April 2019 and the system has worked well enough for them to keep it running through today.
Since 2018 PBOT has worked with six different scooter companies and has permitted 2,990 scooters for a system that has logged more than 3.2 million trips.
In PBOT’s eyes, e-scooters have passed all the tests and it’s time to end the courtship and tie the knot.
“We believe shared e-scooters have a long-term future in Portland and this request for proposals is a major, tangible step in that direction,” said PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera yesterday when we asked him about the significance of the RFP. “E-scooters have shown themselves to be a convenient, useful and environmentally sustainable part of our transportation system.”
PBOT says they’ll award the contract to one or two vendors and the new fleet will grow to 3,500 scooters (up from 3,100 today). The winner of the contract(s) must demonstrate how they’ll achieve the city’s three goals of: reducing vehicle miles traveled and combating climate change, promoting safety and responsible riding, and reducing impacts of racial disparities that exist in our transportation system.
One of the biggest complaints about scooters is how they clutter sidewalks and block right-of-way. The RFP reveals that PBOT wants to take a big step to tackle that problem by requiring vendors to provide a “lock-to mechanism” for every e-scooter in the fleet and require riders to use it. Lyft, the company that runs Portland’s Biketown bike share system, recently launched their first docked scooter stations in Chicago.
PBOT says they won’t require specialized docks for the scooters. Bike racks and other types of “approved infrastructure” can be considered a “lock-to mechanism.”
Following a successful expansion of the current service area well beyond the central city and into east and northeast Portland, the new system will expand its geographic footprint. PBOT says they’ll require operators to maintain a minimum service level in neighborhoods citywide.
Ease of access is also something PBOT hopes to improve with the new contract.
With four scooter companies operating in Portland today, users have to have a different app to rent from each one. When the new operators are chosen this fall, users will need only one or two.
Speaking of apps, PBOT is working on a new one that will include scooter rentals and take its successful Transportation Wallet program to the next level. They’re working with software company RideShark to develop, “an integrated platform to distribute multi-modal transportation incentives to qualified Portlanders in 2023.”
E-scooters are currently one of the most expensive forms of transportation in Portland with an average trip costing about $5.55. That’s more than twice the cost of a transit trip, more than three times the cost of a typical Biketown trip, and even more expensive than driving a car! In their RFP, PBOT says they want scooter rentals to cost no more than $1 to unlock and no more than $0.35 per minute. Would-be scooter vendors will also need to provide cash payment options and participate in discount programs for lower-income riders.
Accessibility might also improve due to a stipulation in the RFP that requires companies to create a customer service portal and complaint process that is integrated with the City’s 311 system, “that are continually accessible to riders and community members with various types of disabilities.”
Rivera says moving into a more serious relationship with e-scooters will improve the system for everyone. Fewer companies will lead to more market share and financial stability for the operators, and removing the “pilot” status will give PBOT a stronger regulatory stance to create a system more closely aligned with their vision.
The next chapter of e-scooters in Portland will, “change the city’s relationship from a regulator to a partner,” Rivera said. “It will be more like the Biketown relationship and less like the city’s relationship with taxis and transportation network companies (Uber and Lyft, etc).”
For example, the new contract will require companies to use salaried employees that receive benefits, instead of contractors.
If all goes according to plan, Portland’s new scooter service would start later this year or early 2023 and run through fall 2025. Current scooter vendors will be allowed to operate until the future system is launched so there will be no gap in service.
There are now 587 more electric scooters on Portland streets than this time last year. In the first 10 weeks of the current pilot program, the City of Portland says 16 of those scooters were involved in a collision.
And back in July, reader Mark Senf sent us the image at right. He witnessed two young men on one scooter (technically illegal) collide with a bicycle rider at the intersection of Naito Parkway and SW Harvey Milk. Senf said the woman who was riding the bike suffered cuts and bruises along with a fractured shoulder. She was carted away via ambulance and her husband stayed behind to handle the details.
If you’re a low-car Portlander, you understand that driving around the city is often more trouble than it’s worth. You probably also find shared electric scooters to be a useful addition to the mobility mix. But where do these vehicles fit into the rules of the road?
Now there’s a handy new guide from a local law firm that lays it all out.
Portland’s second attempt at integrating electric scooters into the mobility mix could get started as early as April 26th.
And unlike the 2,000 scooters we had on the streets last year, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will start with 2,500 and estimates we could see as many as 9,000 if enough scooter companies play ball with a host of new regulations. PBOT says if all permits are granted and all operators qualify for incentives we could have 15,000 scooters in use by January 2020.
The new pilot is scheduled to last one year, after which PBOT says they’ll work with the public to develop a permanent program.
In their announcement today, PBOT released a mix of incentives and regulations that demonstrate the challenge they face to create a scooter program that leads to high ridership yet also addresses serious concerns raised by some people and organizations during the first pilot. At nearly 6,000 trips per day during the 120-day pilot last year, the scooters proved to be a valuable mobility option. However, due to a lack of safe space to ride them and a lack of consideration for others, too many people rode them on sidewalks and parked them in places that obstructed public right-of-way.