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Thousands of new e-scooters hit San Francisco streets today

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But maximum cap is now a fraction of previous projection as the city slashes e-scooter fleet by 60 percent

Two e-scooters lying on the sidewalk.
Sidewalk at Mission and Third Streets, October 15, 2019.
Photo by Brock Keeling

Thousands more electric scooters will hit the ground rolling in San Francisco today, as three new companies now have permits to peddle their contraptions on city streets once again.

But the number of two-wheeled devices is a fraction of the scooterocalypse feared a few weeks ago: City Hall pruned the maximum number of vehicles each permit holder may field.

The roughly 10,000 scooters dropped to 4,000, with only 2,500 of those in play today.

In September, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced three companies—Lime, Spin, and Jump—qualified for permits that would allow them to put 1,000 vehicles apiece onto city streets.

But Friday, SFTMA announced significantly lower figures: the three new permit holders will get only 500 vehicles apiece today, and the maximum future cap is 1,000.

Scoot, noted as the only incumbent operator “in good standing” with City Hall, will be allotted 1,000 scooters immediately. Scoot operated in the city as part of the one-year pilot program that expired Tuesday, alongside rival Skip, which failed to impress SFMTA enough to get its permits renewed.

[Update: A Scoot spokesperson tells Curbed SF that the company’s potential future cap is 2,500 vehicles, raising the possible citywide fleet to 5,500.]

SFMTA also promised more bike racks to keep scooters out of the way on sidewalks and urged San Franciscans to report “bad scooter behavior” to 311.

As the San Francisco Examiner reports, cutting back on the number of vehicles allowed on the streets could, ironically, inhibit the scooter companies’ capacity to spread out into underserved areas and to hire more local workers—two expectations city government laid on the startups as part of the permit dealmaking.

SFMTA does not specify exactly why it pulled back the scooter numbers. However, its announcement references “all the constructive feedback received throughout this process.” The transit agency also singled out Aaron Peskin, SF supervisor and scooter critic, as well as “the entire Board of Supervisors and members of the public” who chimed in on the topic.