Hoboken’s bumpy scooter rideshare pilot program ends November 20, which means the City will essentially be free of Lime Scooters by a week from today.
Or will it?
No one seems willing or able to answer that question comprehensively, as there are still a lot of questions about how things may or may not move forward. A source close to the program tells hMAG that the scooters will in fact be removed by Lime next week, as the Hoboken City Council has yet to be presented with a proposed extension. The earliest Lime—or any other scooter program—could roll back onto the streets of Hoboken is December 5, the day after the next Council would tentatively discuss the future of scooter rideshare in town.
Scooters in Hoboken have been under immediate and intense scrutiny since their rollout on May 20. With over 1,000 complaints to Hoboken PD within the first 24 hours, a rider was arrested a month later for attempting to flee police on the Waterfront after colliding with a pedestrian. In September, a scooter collided with a mother and child on the sidewalk, prompting Hoboken City Council to crackdown on safety with bans in parks and on the Waterfront. Meanwhile, incidents of DWI on scooters have been making headlines over the past few weeks.
Nevertheless, the City of Hoboken had made a concerted effort to make it appear that scooters were here to stay. When the program became a revenue stream for the City in August—with a portion of each ride allegedly earmarked for enforcement, infrastructure and education initiatives—many saw that as a sign that Lime was more than just the flavor of the month. Nevertheless, questions about the enforcement end of things still lingered, prompting the City to announce the hiring of mission-specific micromobility enforcement officers last month. Even with that move, the skepticism remained—in the face of volumes of anecdotal and documented concerns over safety.
hMAG reached out to Lime for their input on the program to date. Phil Jones, Lime’s Senior Director of Government Relations, told us via statement that, “We’ve truly enjoyed serving Hoboken and its residents with convenient, sustainable transportation options. Given the overwhelming popularity of the pilot program, we are hopeful that we can continue the program moving forward.”
Since May, Hoboken riders have taken more than 640,000 trips on Lime scooters. Based on Hoboken rider survey results, scooter trips replaced an estimated 213,000 car trips (car share, ride share, personal cars).
“Since a third of all scooter rides replace car trips in Hoboken, residents may unfortunately see the return of increased congestion and emissions without scooter service available,” says Jones. “It also means those that have come to rely on them will find it more difficult to connect with transit, meaning longer or more expensive commutes.”
Then there’s revenue for the City that will now evaporate. According to their own calculations, Lime would be contributing $500,000 per year from fees to the City of Hoboken. Furthermore, their Lime Hero program has raised for funds for the Hoboken Community Center—total $2,400 and counting in just a few short months since activation.
“As we’ve demonstrated over the past few months, Lime works hard to respond to concerns from the City and Council Members and we’re eager to continue building on this relationship,” says Jones. “At the same time, it’s impressive how quickly Hobokenites have adopted scooters into their daily routines and many may face challenges readjusting without scooters available.”
What Hobokenites have been fundamentally unimpressed with, however, is enforcement.
Social media is routinely ablaze with footage of scooter riders on sidewalks, riding tandem, riding underage, ignoring the park/waterfront ban. Hoboken officials had no problem coming up with new rules for scooters, but at the end of the day, they proved woefully ineffective at enforcing them.
— Lubasha (@lubaShay) October 27, 2019
As the decision on Hoboken’s e-scooter rideshare pilot program grew closer, the City is asked residents and visitors alike to fill out a comprehensive survey pertaining to scooters and their use within Hoboken.
A scooter rider and advocate named Dave made his case to us at hMAG, stating, “I’m able to frequent local retail stores and restaurants with ease since Lime launched in Hoboken. It also makes the commute more efficient which is always welcomed here!” Dave is also a “juicer”—someone who takes in the scooters and recharges them in his home. “Since becoming a Juicer for Lime, I’ve been able to benefit significantly from the supplemental income it provides me. Whether it be money for grocery shopping, paying my utility bills, or money towards my health insurance deductible, it’s been of great value to me.”
On the other side of the argument are the cacophonous and constant cries for safety—not only with scooters in use, but also the scooters cast aside on the sidewalks of Hoboken. More than just “get off my lawn” complaints, the scooters pose significant risks to Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, and have been said to make the sidewalks more cumbersome for children, the elderly and strollers.
Getting laws on the books and developing pragmatic solutions for enforcement proved to be imperative. While some residents have been clamoring for a knee-jerk ban on Lime, the reality is that micromobilty won’t go away. Electric scooters currently retail for $159—which means removing the scooter program would simply result in taking these things out of the hands of vendors who can theoretically be held accountable.
With or without a supervised rideshare program, scooters will most likely remain on the list of items clogging Hoboken’s thoroughfares—along with cars, trucks, bikes, ridiculously oversized bikes, strollers, ridiculously oversized strollers, skateboards, hoverboards, segways, gyroscopic unicycles, leashed dogs, unleashed dogs, unleashed children, inattentive narcissists, stumbling drunks, belligerent jerks, and the generally clumsy.
In an op-ed for hMAG.com back in July, it was noted that, “It will take thoughtful, pragmatic urban planning and inventive strategies for effective enforcement. It will take a coalition of stakeholders—residents, politicians, vendors, law enforcement—prepared to remain focused on a common goal. Because if Hoboken wants to have nice things, it has to factor in the true ‘density’ of its population, and have a plan to deal with it.”
For now, it appears that plan has yet to be formulated.