In March, the city launched a one-year pilot program for dockless vehicles, allowing scooter and electric bike companies to bring tens of thousands of the devices to Los Angeles. The program came with the hope that this will get more people out of cars, but with the caveat and knowledge that it will be a work in progress. Six months in, Downtown Los Angeles has emerged as a key neighborhood, with devices parked — or plopped — on seemingly every block.
The results so far appear mixed, with some people using them to bridge the first-mile, last-mile gap posed by public transportation options, and others angered over scooter “clutter.” Many riders seem unsure whether to use the devices on sidewalks or the street, while police deal with the challenge of whether to spend their time ticketing scofflaws (sidewalk riding is illegal).
The pilot program, implemented by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, was the result of nearly two years of discussions, and established a slate of guidelines for dockless vehicle operators. Permits were issued to eight companies in March, and so far approximately 36,000 vehicles have been green-lighted in Los Angeles, according to LADOT, more than any other city in the United States. Approximately 30,000 are scooters operated by companies including Bird, Lime and Lyft. Dockless bicycles account for the remaining stock, operated by companies such as Wheels, Spin and Jump.
While some communities are filled with devices, more are coming. According to the LADOT, only about 20,000 vehicles had actually reached city streets by June, with the remaining 16,000 eligible to be deployed.
The greatest number of devices, approximately 7,700, are in Council District 11, which includes Venice. The 14th District, which covers Downtown, ranks fourth, with 3,300 vehicles, though maps that chronicle the density of deployment show that the Central City is among the most packed neighborhoods for the devices.
In a prepared statement, a spokesperson for LADOT said that the vehicles are cutting the number of car trips in the city. According to the department, there are nearly 1 million dockless vehicle trips each month in Los Angeles.
“Those one million dockless trips translate into one million single occupancy vehicle trips avoided,” the statement read. “This is a good reminder that access to various transportation choices helps connect us to more people and to more places.”