More dockless scooters and bikes, but fewer dockless companies would operate in DC under a new DDOT plan

General Scooter Administration. Image by Joe Flood licensed under Creative Commons.

DC could limit shared dockless bike and scooter companies to just four, but increase the number of dockless bikes and scooters to 20,000, under a new proposal released for public comment Wednesday evening. Currently, Bird, Bolt, Lime, Lyft, Razor, Skip, and Spin operate dockless scooters, and JUMP operates both scooters and dockless bicycles.

Under the new rules the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) proposed, there would be only four companies chosen. DDOT would pick the winners through a “rigorous and transparent evaluation process” looking at past and current performance, equitable access to services, and ability to achieve safety goals. Each operator would be permitted 2,500 scooters in total, and required to maintain a fleet of 500 scooters at any point during the day.

Picking just four companies would simplify the work of DDOT officials to manage the program. At the same time, the four winners would be able to operate larger fleets, with the overall allowed number of scooters and bicycles increasing from 6,210 up to 20,000.

Each operator would be limited to 1,000 vehicles in the Central Business District. DDOT feels this could encourage them to focus more attention on less well-served (and debatably less profitable) areas.

Currently, each operator has to have at least six vehicles in each ward by 6 am. The proposal would change that to 20 vehicles minimum per ward, between the hours of 5 and 7 am. Also during that timeframe, each operator will need 400 vehicles in zones known as “equity emphasis areas”, a regional index used to describe places with a high proportion of low-income people and/or people of color, which DDOT has adapted based on District-specific data.

Equity Emphasis Areas map by DDOT.

Public reaction to dockless bikes and scooters has been mixed. A lot of people started using them quickly, which suggests that those people like them. When dockless rides take the place of car trips, they can mean lower carbon emissions. In June, Greater Greater Washington and WeAct Radio hosted a panel discussion where participants talked about how dockless scooters could expand access to transportation options among underserved groups and places.

But some residents see them as increasing risks to pedestrians, for example by being left lying on sidewalks. Councilmember Mary Cheh even proposed limiting their hours of operation at night earlier this year, though people can use most other personal modes of transportation at the hours of their choosing.

Narrowing the range of operators could make regulation more straightforward, and trying out provisions to enhance equity could address the needs of people for whom public transportation isn’t easily accessible. The proposed new plan also includes more bike and scooter corrals, which DDOT terms “Micromobility Corrals” (MiMos) throughout the District, to encourage users to store them out of the way of pedestrians and other sidewalk users.

What do you think about the plan? DDOT will be accepting comments on the proposed regulations (not the choice of companies) until October 7, 2019. You can submit your comments using this form.