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E-Scooters Get Mixed Results As City's 16-Month Pilot Program Nears End

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By Jorge Casuso

November 5, 2019 -- E-scooters have had mixed results in Santa Monica, the beach city that helped kick off a craze that has forced local governments around the world to find ways to curb their use.

A report released by the City on Monday found that e-scooters have become a common way to get around under a 16-month pilot program that capped the number of rental vehicles allowed to operate and set standards for their use.

In the last year alone, users took 2,673,819 trips on "shared-mobility devices," which also include e-bikes, with the average trip taking 14 minutes and spanning 1.3 miles.

But while nearly half of the trips (49 percent) replaced those that would have been made in cars, nearly as many (46) percent replaced trips on foot or on private bikes and scooters, according to the report.

In addition, rental rates, which are set by "profit oriented companies" have risen from 15 cents per minute to between 23 and 30 cents, after the $1 paid for the first minute.

That makes e-scooters and e-bikes an expensive way to get around.

The cost for a one-mile trip on the devices was $3.57, compared to $1.68 for a Breeze bike trip, 72 cents for a car trip and 33 cents to ride a mile on the Big Blue Bus.

As a result, most of the users are higher income, with nearly half (47 percent) making more than $75,000 a year ("City Survey Finds E-Scooter, E-Bike Riders Are Affluent, Live Outside City," May 10, 2019).

"While shared mobility devices support goals for sustainability," the report said, "unaffordable fares do not support Santa Monica’s equity goals, as access is not facilitated across diverse income groups."

Low-income programs were available but underutilized, with only 253 sign ups "due to underinvestment in outreach and onboarding," the report said.

Safety continues to be a challenge. Between January 2017 and September 2019, there were 122 total reported collisions involving shared mobility devices.

Nearly half (47 percent) were collisions with motor vehicles, while 7 percent involved pedestrians. Another 21 percent were caused by riders falling from devices and 18 percent colliding with a fixed object.

Of those collission, 10 percent resulted in severe injuries, while 80 percent resulted in a "minor visible injury or complaint of pain," the report said. There were no fatalities during the pilot period.

Between June 2017 and September of 2019, police issued 1,006 citations to e-scooter and e-bike riders, with an average of 50 monthly citations issued during this summer.

Most citations (61 percent) were issued to riders under 16 for operating an e-scooter under the legal age or for riding without a helmet.

Riding on sidewalks and running red light signals accounted for 13 percent and 7 percent of the citations, respectively.

The pilot program has cost the City $149,314, according to the report.

While the program generated $418,545 from the rental companies, the City spent $517,859 for staffing.

In addition, the shared-mobility operators dealt a blow to the City's Breeze Bike Share program, which saw a 35 percent decrease in trips from the previous summer.

Opinion about e-scooters and e-bikes remains divided, according to the report. Only 10 percent of non-riders surveyed had a favorable view of their impact, compared to 63 percent of habitual riders.

The Shared Mobility Pilot Program was launched by the City in September 2018 in an effort to control the proliferation of e-scooters ("Santa Monica Launches Pilot Program for Electric Scooters, Bicycles," June 13, 2018).

Since the program was launched, the City has raised the number of devices allowed from 2,500 to 3,250.

Contracts under the program were awarded to Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump.

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