After a year-long pilot and several delays, Seattle is finally ready to establish a permanent dockless bikeshare program.
In documents shared with GeekWire, the Seattle Department of Transportation outlines a plan that would increase the maximum number of dockless shared bikes to 20,000. There are currently about 10,000 shared bikes in Seattle, operated by three different companies.
If approved, the regulations would charge companies a $250,000 annual fee per permit. That would amount to about $50 per bike. The fees would cover the costs of administering the program and creating designated zones where bikes can be parked.
Ofo’s Seattle General Manager Lina Feng said “these excessive bike fees, the highest in the country, would be a step backward in reducing carbon emissions by severely limiting access to greener, more affordable transportation,” in a statement.
Among SDOT’s other recommendations: Create a compliance program, add more bikeshare parking zones, and ensure bikes are distributed equitably. Officials also propose creating a plan to help low-income riders access bikeshare.
The proposal says that parking of the shared bikes remains the biggest challenge. According to SDOT only 70-80 percent of bikes are parked correctly. SDOT suggests expanding the designated shared bike parking zones that the department has been testing in some neighborhoods.
During Seattle’s bikeshare pilot, three companies were permitted to launch: Lime, Spin, and Ofo. Over the past year, SDOT has been studying the impact of the brightly colored bicycles in Seattle. Under the proposed regulations, a fourth service would be allowed to enter the market.
That’s likely to create competition among the other services out there, including Uber and Lyft, which both recently acquired dockless bikeshare startups.
Uber has already given a demo of one of its JUMP bikes for SDOT officials and is eager to enter the Seattle market.