- The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) released the terms of the city's much-anticipated e-scooter pilot program Friday through a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI). Scooter operators interested in participating in the pilot are asked to respond to the RFEI by Dec. 16. The pilot is slated to begin on March 1, 2021.
- The RFEI states that e-scooters will be permitted in every city borough except Manhattan, and the vehicles will be rolled out "in tranches… to ensure a safe and orderly Project(s) service and mitigate significant negative impacts." NYCDOT said that preference will be given to serving areas outside of its existing or planned bike-share zones.
- NYCDOT said it will be solely responsible for determining the size of each operator's fleet, but has not yet disclosed how many total scooters will be deployed to the city's streets. The department also said it will define parking requirements prior to the pilot’s launch, and participating operators will be required to make all service data available to NYCDOT 24/7, with the exception of personally identifiable information.
The New York City Council ended years of debate and discussion when it approved an e-scooter pilot program in June, following a state-level legalization of the vehicles. The RFEI announcement has now set off a frenzy among dockless vehicle operators, who all see an opportunity to serve what has, until now, been the largest untapped market in the United States.
"We're excited about working with the City to craft a world-class e-scooter program that prioritizes safety, accessibility and equity," said Phil Jones, Lime's senior director for government relations, in an email. "[E-scooters] can help New York build a more resilient and adaptable transportation system. As New Yorkers look for new ways to get around, e-scooters will provide an ideal option for those looking to travel around the City while remaining socially-distant."
In an emailed statement, Bird’s Senior Director of Government Partnerships Maurice Henderson said the company "will submit a proposal that prioritizes equity, safety, accessibility, effective parking solutions and more for all New Yorkers."
Meanwhile, Spin's head of East Coast government partnerships Will Burns said his team is excited to respond and help "ensure streets are safer, more equitable and accessible to all." Spin is already on the ground in Brooklyn working with residents and hosting community feedback sessions that will likely help to inform Spin's application.
When the legislation establishing this e-scooter program passed, elected officials said they were concerned about the need for charging infrastructure and safety provisions. The RFEI partially addressed that by stating the scooters cannot be charged inside residences, while NYCDOT said it will require operators "to rectify obstruction of the public right-of-way" from any improperly parked scooters. NYCDOT also said it will reserve the right to terminate a contract with any provider it feels is "performing poorly."
While some operators including Bird and Lime rely on contractors in various cities to charge scooters within their homes, it's likely they'll overcome that obstacle for an opportunity in this high-demand market.
"We'll of course adhere to the terms of the RFEI," a Lime spokesperson told Smart Cities Dive in an email. "We operate in a range of cities without juicers and this requirement won't be a hurdle for us."
The major U.S. micromobility players are not the only companies positioning themselves to participate in this pilot program. Stockholm-based Voi said it will be among those throwing its hat into the ring to deploy its scooters in New York.
"We've seen that e-scooters increase transit connectivity, and attract riders who may not have access to bikeshare services like Citibike where they live or work," said Fredrik Hjelm, the company's co-founder and CEO, in a statement. "Voi hopes to get the chance to work with city officials to expand access to socially distanced modes today, and help the city meet its longer-term equity and sustainability goals tomorrow."
Transportation robotics company Superpedestrian said its LINK scooters will also compete for a slot in the pilot. The LINK team has already been engaging with New York residents for safety classes and test rides, and even donated 50 of its Pace-branded bicycles to frontline, essential and mutual aid workers in the city, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
"We"ve been on the ground in Queens, Brooklyn and across the boroughs, listening to what New Yorkers want in a shared scooter program," said Paul Steely White, Superpedestrian's director of public affairs, in a statement. "They want safety, accessibility and fleets that do not make life difficult for other street users. We’re ready to deliver, to roll up our sleeves and work with the City to be a part of NYC's bright transportation future."