Statement on Shared Dockless Vehicles: Safer Streets Paramount; Dockless has a Lead Role in a New Model for Mobilityo

Honorable Councilmembers,

We thank City Staff’s thoughtful consideration of how to engage new dockless shared mobility operators in a way that achieves those goals. We strongly agree with the values the City has expressed to frame the policy context:

  • Put people and safety first.

  • Give all people access to mobility choices.

  • Pioneer a clean mobility future.

  • Design great streets for health and wellbeing.

  • Leverage private sector innovation in new mobility that serves community needs.

  • Strengthen government services with data-driven decision-making.

Transportation accounts for 64% of Santa Monica’s greenhouse gas emissions. The City should do everything in its power to help people find ways to get around without emitting pollution and getting stuck in traffic. It must do so while protecting the most vulnerable users of our streets: people walking, biking and now scooting.

The key focal point of debate has been on the merits and methods of capping the size of dockless shared fleets. Arbitrary caps on fleet size are not necessary nor sufficient to ensure ubiquitous mobility options and safety for all.

A low cap will harm users, requiring them to walk longer distances to access a dockless shared mobility device. Because there are roughly 700 blocks in Santa Monica, a cap of 500 would mean that if the mobility devices were universally distributed, a typical user would have to walk at least 1.5 blocks on average to access a device. In practice, it will be often much higher, as dockless bikes and scooters will concentrate at busy destinations like downtown and the beach.

Furthermore, more operators is not necessarily better. Few users will have three apps on their phones, and will pass several devices on the way to the device of their preferred provider. Fewer operators with more vehicles per operator makes the service more accessible, ensures less unnecessary clutter of duplicative fleets, and increases accountability.

For these reasons, the council should consider one or two operators instead of three, and either higher caps or caps based on device utilization rather static and arbitrary numbers.  

Furthermore, the proposed regulations should consider device characteristics such as size and weight. A key challenge with dockless mobility devices is that some users leave the devices in sidewalks or in ADA access zones.  Devices that are smaller or lighter and easier to move from these zones provide helpful samaritans opportunity to assist Santa Monica in managing the beginning stages of new, popular, and sustainable transportation options.

Regardless of whether the council recommends one or more providers, the City should require providers to make real-time vehicle position data publicly available in a standards-based format.  The data should be in the GBFS bikeshare data format, which is the standard used by Breeze/Westside Bike Connect, and other dockless vehicle providers. A link to the GBFS data repository should be released to the City, which can publish the information and work with third-party apps so that dockless shared mobility devices from multiple providers are shown alongside new and long-standing sustainable transportation options such as Breeze Bikeshare, Big Blue Bus, and Metro buses.