Looking Back at the Shared Mobility Pilot Program
November 1, 2019 1:30 PM
by Miranda Iglesias
Before Council holds a study session on the future of shared mobility in Santa Monica on November 12, 2019, it’s a natural time to take a moment to reflect on how much our City’s overall mobility landscape has changed in the last decade, and how far we’ve come. We saw the ascendance of ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft; the 100+ miles of new bikeways through the Bike Action Plan; the launch of Breeze Bike Share, Los Angeles County’s first bike share system; the opening of the Expo Line, connecting Santa Monica to the region; the Big Blue Bus Evolution of Blue, which overhauled the network to integrate with Expo; and the arrival of dockless shared mobility devices.
In September 2017, we in Santa Monica witnessed the launch of a new business model that allowed users to rent shared, dockless GPS-enabled e-scooters with their smartphone. At the time, no local laws, permits, or requirements existed to manage this new transportation option. It was a bumpy road at first, but the Santa Monica City Council saw the technology’s potential to move people in a new way. The City designed a pilot program to test shared electric scooters and bikes operated by private companies, using a flexible permit approach that is responsive to community needs, technological advancements, and this nascent and fast-evolving industry.
The pilot kicked off in September 2018 with four operators selected through a competitive selection process: Bird, Jump, Lime, and Lyft. Through the pilot program’s performance-based fleet cap system, the collective fleet size reached a peak of 3,250 devices by September 2019 after an initial launch of 2,500 devices. The program included enforcement and program management roles necessary to oversee private company operations and public safety on our streets.
Over the course of the pilot, staff have had regular meetings with the four companies, monitored operations and ridership data, conducted two users surveys (4,200 completed responses) and one communitywide survey (1,261 completed responses), and organized ten meetings of a Community Advisory Committee to inform program evaluation and consider potential next steps. Staff actively oversaw the program to respond to community concerns, identify and implement necessary program adjustments, and communicate and track the performance of the operators over time.
Through these avenues, much has been learned to help chart the course for the future of shared mobility in Santa Monica once the pilot period draws to a close. A pilot summary was just released and here are some highlights:
- Users took 2,673,819 trips from October 2018 through September 2019.
- The average trip time was 14 minutes and the trip length was 1.3 miles.
- People used shared mobility devices most often for short work-related trips (29 percent), recreation (26 percent), eating out (14 percent), commuting (11 percent) and shopping (8 percent).
- Nearly half (49 percent) of shared mobility trips replaced trips that would have otherwise been made by car, either driving alone or ride-hailing using Lyft or Uber.
- 39 percent of trips replaced walking trips—in some cases serving as a walking accelerator for those commuting or running errands.
- The City took a strong role in enforcement and public education, which dramatically reduced code violations and increased public awareness about the program and how to ride safely and legally. 85 percent of riders and 90 percent of the general public reported a general awareness of the pilot’s basic parking and riding rules.
- The City installed 107 parking and pick-up zones citywide, helping to organize rider parking and manage service provider fleet deployment.
- The City painted 19 miles of bikes lanes green, creating high visibility lanes that were funded in part by the Shared Mobility Use of Public Right of Way Fee.
- Santa Monica was one of the first cities to utilize and enforce geofencing technology tools to do things like implementing a deactivation zone around the beach area, requiring devices to decelerate to 0 mph in this zone and largely eliminating safety issues and conflicts along the beach path.
- Code Enforcement issued 299 citations for 929 violations and impounded over 1,200 devices for blocking access for people with disabilities, being parked in the street, slow operator response time, and other violations.
- There were 122 total reported collisions involving shared mobility devices from January 2017 to September 2019. 10% of the collisions resulted in severe injuries, while 80% of collisions resulted in a minor visible injury or complaint of pain.
A great deal of progress was made during the pilot program, and many operational areas improved with diligent efforts by City and operator staff. Shared micro-mobility devices served millions of trips, half of which would have otherwise been taken in a car. The devices helped people get to destinations all over Santa Monica for work, recreation, dining, and shopping. Yet, the delivery of public outcomes such as equity, safety, affordability, rider behavior, sustainability, and reliability still need substantial improvement. How we push forward on these important areas will be the focus of Council’s discussion on November 12, when staff will present the findings of the summary report and ask for direction on next steps for shared mobility in Santa Monica.