After two pilot programs brought thousands of electric scooters to Chicago’s streets, the city is slated to welcome them more permanently beginning this spring.
The City Council’s Transportation Committee approved an ordinance allowing up to three scooter companies to be licensed to operate in the city, unless—like Lyft, which operates the city’s Divvy bike-sharing program—they have an existing city contract.
The ordinance cleared the committee with only one dissenting vote and heads to the full City Council on Wednesday.
The licenses would last two years. Operators would pay $1 per day upfront per scooter. Those license fees would need to be paid upfront and are expected to total $4.4 million, said Transportation Department Deputy Commissioner Kevin O’Malley.
Companies also would have to turn over the 9% lease tax the city charges on rentals. No more than 6,000 scooters would be deployed citywide on the first day of operation, and no more than 12,500 in the future.
Council members who were sour on scooters in past pilots, especially because of potential accidents and sidewalk clutter, sounded largely converted. 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez said he supported the environmental goals of the program—cutting down on car trips—and helping small business districts bring in different traffic.
In response to pilot criticisms, applicants will be weighed depending in part on their ability to deploy scooters that lock to bike racks and use technology to tell riders to get off sidewalks; to make services available to people with disabilities; outreach and innovation plans, and steps companies commit to taking to identify, train and employ city “residents that have been historically disadvantaged in participating in the local economy.”
There is no explicit lockout area in the ordinance the Transportation Committee passed today, but the lakefront, “any other park facilities” and certain parts of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus would be off-limits, O’Malley said. Applicants will be required to use geo-fencing technology to keep scooters out of those banned areas and use photo validation to make sure scooters are parked properly.
During past pilot programs, the city set aside equity zones on the city’s South and West sides and required companies to distribute at least 50 percent of their fleet there daily.
In the 2020 pilot, three scooter vendors—JUMP, Lime and Spin—logged about 540,000 rides from August through December. Together, those three companies were allowed to deploy 10,000 scooters and operate citywide, except for the Loop, on the 606 Trail and along the lakefront. An average of 7,415 scooters were available each day, according to the city.
Between the first pilot scooter program in 2019 and second in 2020, the share of complaints dropped by 75%, according to a city evaluation, in part because the city was more strict about parking, which “improved parking compliance” and decreased “sidewalk clutter.” During the 2020 pilot, all of the vendors charged users a $1 unlock fee and a per-minute cost averaging $0.39.
No scooter would be allowed to operate from midnight to 5 a.m. Riders would be limited to bike lanes and barred from sidewalks, and scooters must be parked upright, to something fixed like a bike rack, retired parking meter, street sign, or light pole. They must also be parked out of the way of bus stops, fire hydrants, and loading zones.