Dockless Vehicle Update


Baltimore’s Shared Mobility Coordinator Meg Young talking about the scooter program:

Last Spring, scooters launched in Baltimore. The city quickly adopted a pilot program, originally intended to last six months, to explore and evaluate dockless shared mobility vehicles on Baltimore Streets. The initial pilot program rules and regulations were based on a white paper provided to the Pugh Administration by Bikemore.

As of February 28, 2019, the original proposed end date of the pilot program, dockless scooters and bikes had seen almost 756,000 rides by over 190,000 riders. At that time, Baltimore City officials decided based on a detailed survey showing strong support for continuation of a dockless mobility program to extend the pilot while formal rules and regulations were drafted and adopted for a permanent program.

This came in three parts. First, Baltimore City Council drafted authorizing legislation formally legalizing the use and regulation of scooters, e-bikes, and other shared mobility devices in Baltimore City. Second, Baltimore City Department of Transportation drafted rules and regulations based on the City Council’s authorizing legislation. Third, a weighted permit application was produced for vendors to apply for license to operate under the new permanent Dockless Vehicle for Hire Program.

The permit application was released this week. Companies have until July 24th to submit applications to be one of four vendors selected to operate in Baltimore City. Recipients will be announced July 29th, and the new permits will run from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020.

Rules and Regulations

We believe the adopted rules and regulations to be some of the best in the country, and can be revisited annually to adopt best practices learned in other cities. The majority of Bikemore’s comments on the rules and regulations were adopted.

Here are some highlights from the rules and regulations (the full rules and regulations can be found on the Baltimore City Department of Transportation website):

  • Providers operating one vehicle type may operate up to 1,000 vehicles, and must operate a minimum of 150 vehicles.

  • Providers operating multiple vehicle types may operate up to 2,000 vehicles, and must operate a minimum of 150 of each vehicle type.

  • Adaptive vehicles (for use by those living with disabilities) are not counted toward vehicle maximums.

  • Providers my operate vehicles 24/7 if they can demonstrate a maintenance and safety plan that ensures vehicles are regularly serviced and safe.

  • Ride purchase must be made possible with cash and without use of a smart phone.

  • Vehicles must be located in every city planning district, vehicle density is regulated, and additional equity priority areas are defined for placement.

Permit Application

The permit application allows up to four vendors to be selected. Eight sections of the permit application are scored to rank applicants based on vehicle information, maintenance, operations, education/engagement, hiring, data, sustainability, and company history.

Scored sections on the permit application

Scored sections on the permit application

Each vendor will be required to pay a $70,000 permitting fee, a $10,000 performance bond, and a $0.10 excise tax per rental.

The annual permitting fee covers the cost of Baltimore City Department of Transportation shared mobility program staff, in addition to innovative public engagement and infrastructure:

  • A Resident Mobility Advisory Board will be established, similar to the successful Food Policy Advisory Committee. Resident Mobility Advisors will be appointed from communities across the city, and will receive a paid stipend to meet six times a year to discuss mobility challenges in and solutions for their communities. ($6,000)

  • 20 shared mobility corrals will be installed annually based on an evaluation of ridership and equity priorities. These corrals will be installed either on the street or sidewalk, and provide designated parking areas for shared mobility vehicles as well as private bikes or scooters. ($20,000)

  • Existing mobility lanes will be evaluated and improved through resurfacing and patching to provide safer travel surfaces for shared mobility vehicles. ($100,000)

  • Baltimore City Department of Transportation will produce community education materials ($19,000) as well as provide five $2,000 community micro-grants for education and outreach ($10,000)

The refundable performance bond covers anticipated city expenses, including the BPD Special Marine Unit for harbor retrievals, Baltimore City Department of Transportation towing services for improperly parked or damaged/abandoned vehicles, and damage to public property. Any funds not expended on these city services will be refunded to the companies at the end of the permit.

The excise tax of $0.10 per ride goes into the general fund. The Pugh administration committed to restricting these revenues to funding bike infrastructure installation in Baltimore City, however it is unclear if this restriction will be honored given we have a new government.

What’s Next

We look forward to Baltimore City Department of Transportation receiving applications from multiple vendors. We understand that all currently operating vendors plan on reapplying, and several other companies not yet operating in Baltimore have expressed interest.

Baltimore City has been on the forefront of shared mobility regulation and ridership success. We believe the establishment of formal rules and regulation and a competitive application will continue this trend, and hopefully bring more vehicles and vehicle types to more Baltimoreans while increasing our city’s capacity to successfully manage the program, reducing instances of vehicle damage, blocked right-of-way, and the other challenges associated with introducing new modes of transportation in Baltimore City.

Ultimately, the best thing Baltimore City can do to make shared mobility safer and more accessible to everyone is build more protected infrastructure.