More scooters set to to hit SF streets as city traffic starts to return

SFMTA describes e-scooters as a way to ‘fill transportation gaps’

With Muni service drastically reduced for the foreseeable future, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is doubling down on alternative mobility options to help move people around San Francisco.

E-scooter companies, not long ago considered notorious for their lawlessness and disdain for city regulations, will be a vital city partner in “offering an efficient travel choice that is environmentally friendly and fills transportation gaps,” according to an SFMTA news release.

Spin, the only one of the four local e-scooter companies that continued operations after shelter-in-place ground most activity to a halt, will soon increase its fleet by 50% citywide.

Granted permission for the expansion by SFMTA on September 3, the company plans to deploy a total of 500 additional scooters to its existing 1000-scooter fleet by early October, with the majority of the additional hardware hitting streets by the end of this week.

According to a press release from Spin, it’s focusing much of the expansion on areas that were either previously under-served the company or that have taken serious hits from the Muni service cuts.

Scooters will start to frequent the streets of the Mission, Bayview Hunters Point, and Balboa Park.

The Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods, almost Spin scooter-barren prior to the pandemic, will also see an influx of new vehicles.

It’s believed strategic placement of the scooters will reduce traffic congestion — which the SFMTA fears will return swiftly — and create easy-access pipelines to the transit hubs that do remain.

Spin started testing this strategy at the start of shelter-in-place, shifting its scooters from their highest pre-pandemic concentration points downtown to more residential neighborhoods in the West and South where people staying at home were looking to complete essential trips without a car.

Ridership spiked by 300% in the Richmond and Sunset districts once scooters had been relocated, according to data from Spin, suggesting the additional scooters are likely to be on par with customer demand for mobility alternatives.

“Expanding Spin’s scooter fleet to provide residents with a sustainable travel option is part of the agency’s overall Transportation Recovery Plan,” according to the company’s press release.

Bought by Ford for a reported $100 million in 2018, Spin was one of the four e-scooter companies awarded a one-year permit to roll out its wheels in San Francisco in October 2019 after losing out in the bid for the pilot program the year prior.

SFMTA imposed a cap of 1,000 vessels from each company with neighborhood-specific minimums, required clear guidelines around parking and enforcement via a complaints database, attached a $75 per scooter fee to fund the installation of bike racks and mandated a number of engagement efforts with lower-income riders, communities within the service areas and labor.

To be eligible for expansion, e-scooter companies must also serve new neighborhoods and show “an increase in users and/or trips using the Adaptive Scooter Pilot, an effort to make shared micromobility more accessible to people with disabilities,” according to SFMTA.

It also launched an interactive dashboard on its website to track citations and complaints.

“I’ve been fully briefed by SFMTA, and I do not object provided that there is adequate education and enforcement to ensure no sidewalk riding, safety and proper parking,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who has been a vocal advocate for a slow, controlled roll-out of scooter programs.

Though some scooters can still be found strewn on street corners, in driveways, or in front of a business, and certain riders continue to still skirt traffic laws by riding on sidewalks or ignoring intersection rules, SFMTA says it will continue to monitor compliance, complaints tracking and enforcement.

Lime, which recently acquired Jump, and Scoot also have ongoing permits to operate in San Francisco.

SFMTA said it’s currently reviewing the acquisition and transfer of the permit, at which point Lime would be able to operate a total of 2,000 scooters.

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