If you dont get to the end of this email, I want to wish you a happy Friday and a great weekend! I am committed to making my newsletters more "concise", but this topic requires more.
I want to start this email with a press statement I put out yesterday about the new eScooter contracts that were approved by the City Council unanimously Wednesday night. Please note that the only reason I approved them is because they are better than the ones we had previously.
COUNCILWOMAN TIFFANIE FISHER
For Immediate Release: 8/8/19
Councilwoman Fisher: Safety Investments Still Lacking in New eScooter Contracts
HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Following weeks of advocating by Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher for better contracts to improve the safety of Hoboken’s nascent eScooter pilot program, the City Council voted on amended contracts that will allow Hoboken to collect additional revenue to help address growing public safety concerns. While the terms of the new agreements are a step in the right direction, they fall short in addressing the immediate and tangible safety initiatives that Hoboken needs to properly ensure responsible ridership and safety for its residents.
As part of the new agreement, the city will collect an additional $.35 from Lime per ride taken in Hoboken. Councilwoman Fisher successfully negotiated that the full $.35 cannot be immediately tacked on to the fare cost and revenue will be used directly for traffic safety and enforcement. Additionally, a last minute addition to induce the Council to support the proposed contracts, the city agreed with Lime to offer riders the ability to make a donation through the app to the Hoboken Community Center, a popular local Hoboken cause.
“Since the botched roll-out of the eScooter program in May, the administration has still not properly addressed the safety and enforcement issues on our streets,” said Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. “That being said, I supported last night’s contract amendments because it allows Hoboken to collect a fair share of ridership revenue with hopes this additional money will be used to implement a more drastic and immediate safety and enforcement plan. Keeping our streets safe has been my top priority since we brought this program to Hoboken and it’s frustrating to see the administration use a last minute political gimmick, albeit a cause I support, to cover up the shortcomings in the new agreements.”
Also on last night’s agenda was the second reading of an ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Fisher that would ban eScooters from Hoboken’s waterfront. She agreed to delay a vote on this until the next City Council meeting while continuing to work with Hoboken’s Parking and Transportation Director Ryan Sharp on the following initiatives: a pilot for protected bike lanes on the remaining portions of Sinatra Drive along the waterfront, updated markings and signage for the protected bike lanes on the lower waterfront, and ridership, enforcement and incident statistics for the waterfront to be provided to the City Council to better understand usage and enforcement needs along the waterfront.
“A more tangible and comprehensive public safety plan is needed that includes these initiatives and does not over exhaust our law enforcement resources, otherwise we will need to reconsider the legislation to ban scooters from our waterfront at the next City Council meeting,” said Councilwoman Fisher.
Councilwoman Fisher has been working with both Lime and Director Sharp since the inception of the program in May to identify ways to better enforce scooter laws and make direct investments in public safety. Since the beginning of the roll-out, Councilwoman Fisher has successfully fought to lower the speed to 8 mph along the waterfront and add an identification requirement to prevent underage ridership and co-sponsored revised fee schedules for eScooter violations.
So as not to repeat, what is not included above:
- The Lime contract HAD a feature that effectively let Lime add more scooters whenever they wanted. Now it requires the City’s approval.
- The Lime contract HAD language that said Lime could increase pricing whenever they wanted. Now it requires 14 days’ notice.
- The Lime contract now has language indicating a plan to identify specific areas where Limes can be unlocked and left – like docking – to help address sidewalk clutter and liability concerns. Nothing definitive yet.
- Director Sharp will immediately be using the money raised to hire additional HPU enforcement officers to better enforce which is a good thing.
- According to Chief Ferrante, actually incidents of accidents are minimal and so far mainly relate to people falling off the eScooters (I am a pebble away from this happening which is why I ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET).
- None of these contracts address the growing use of privately owned scooters.
- I wish I could say I was shocked to find out that the City, in their rush to secure the headline that Hoboken would be "first", had not spoken to Stevens, PATH, or NJ Transit about the eScooters prior to their being rolled out. All have since banned them from their property.
Speaking of Stevens…
In just a couple of weeks Hoboken will once again welcome ~3,600 Stevens students back to town for the new school year. Stevens is a great partner to Hoboken and their faculty and students add a lot to our local economy. And if I am guessing, most of those 18-20+’s will be excited to try out Hoboken’s eScooter’s. 3,600 people who have more energy than most reading this (speaking for myself), who don’t live here full time, and who may not have the same awareness to the concerns of our local Hoboken population. I have not yet spoken with Stevens (will ASAP) but my understanding, and to no surprise, is they have already proactively put in place protocols, rules and education on the topic (e.g. Lime has geofenced the entire campus) specifically geared towards safety of their students. Because Stevens knows how to roll out a program especially one with safety concerns.
Understanding Waterfront Usage
I believe that the ridership on the waterfront has a greater number of visitors using the eScooters which is why we see more irresponsible riding there. People who are nearly impossible to reach to educate what the rules are because they come once. Lime has touted that 70% of ridership across Hoboken are Hoboken residents, but I think, and am willing to be proven otherwise, that if you were to break Hoboken into two areas – waterfront and non-waterfront - you might see 90+% of Hoboken ridership in the non-waterfront and maybe only 20% Hoboken ridership on the waterfront. If that were the case it would help us understand how to better enforce. I have spoken with both Lime and Director Sharp about getting this data. I am sure that Lime wants to keep the waterfront open for riding because those rides are probably more profitable – high turnover, high usage, short trips. 1 20 min trip = $4. 4 5 min trips = $5-7.
Enforcement takes resources. Simply put. Our status quo, prior to the roll out of the eScooters taxes our HPD and HPU resources already. Everyone reading this feels at some time or another that we don’t have enough enforcement of cars at our intersections. Not because HPD doesn’t actively enforce, but because we have so many intersections and not enough police. I have spoken to many of you who have said you want HPD to be fighting crime and do not want them to allocate their resources to eScooters. I know HPD agrees with this.
So why not put it on the eScooter companies to enforce. We can create a system that when we see dangerous riding we send a picture or video to the eScooter company and charge them a fine and then let the eScooter company decide the best way to recover the fine. Let them charge the riders or let them suspend the riders. Hit them where it hurts the most – in their pocket. Just an idea…