Lime Scooters to Vanish Next Week From One New Jersey City

Lime’s six-month pilot program with the city expires on Nov. 20, and city officials confirmed there is no plan to extend it before then. City officials say they are evaluating all options related to the program.

by Teri West, NJ Advance Media Group / November 14, 2019
Shutterstock/Mario Ocon

(TNS) — By next Wednesday, scooters will vanish from the streets of Hoboken, N.J.

Lime will gather them up and just like that, daily riders will be left with their own two feet — and the bike that’s grown cobwebs in storage — to get around.

Lime’s six-month pilot program with the city expires on Nov. 20, and city officials confirmed there is no plan to extend it before then.

“The city is working to evaluate all options,” Hoboken spokesperson Vijay Chaudhuri said.

But Lime said it’s optimistic that the program will return; 90 percent of cities that host a pilot have ended up with a full program.

“We’ve truly enjoyed serving Hoboken and its residents with convenient, sustainable transportation options," said Phil Jones, Lime’s senior director for government relations. "Given the overwhelming popularity of the pilot program, we are hopeful that we can continue the program moving forward.”

City Council President Jen Giattino said she’s not surprised the pilot is ending this quietly. She doesn’t think a new contract would have had the votes to pass even if it appeared before the council, she said.

A break from the scooters is what the city needs, Giattino added. She says it will give legislators the opportunity to sit down and think about how to make the program safer, also and solve the problems that she says are still at play.

“From the council members that I’ve spoken to, I think everyone feels pretty strongly that we have to have an enforcement policy in place,” the council president said.

From the moment the first batch of 250 Lime-S scooters arrived in the Mile Square City, they have been both popular and controversial.

There have been more than 640,000 unique rides in Hoboken. The scooters have become engrained in daily commutes to and from Manhattan, with people in ties and heels lining up for them upon exiting the PATH. The city is one of Lime’s most successful markets in the world, Murphy said.

In a recent survey Councilman Michael Russo conducted, 69 percent of respondents said they would like to see the program continue. Most of those respondents, however, said it should only continue if the scooter technology or restrictions are updated.

The results echo the sentiments of many council members: yes, the program is popular, but safety must be the top priority, they have said.

That’s because not all riders follow the rules.

Some ride on sidewalks (that’s against the law), while others travel against the grain of traffic. And some who have had too much to drink have been charged with DWI.

Others in Hoboken say protected bike lanes would solve most of the problems. In the meantime, pedestrians are at risk, they say, because of the riders who opt for the protection of a sidewalk over the city’s busy, narrow streets.

The first time the council publicly discussed the future of the scooter program in-depth was at a September meeting one week after a rider hit a mother walking with a stroller on the sidewalk. The rider was on an Ojo scooter, devices that arrived in Hoboken for a pilot program at the same time as Lime. The city abruptly ended its agreement with Ojo the day after the accident.

At that council meeting, Councilman Michael Russo suggested that the city take a hiatus from scooters for the winter. The best bet for public safety would be to modify the program while it was inactive, he said.

For, now, the scooter program is in limbo.

Hoboken can expect to see some immediate changes once the scooters disappear, a Lime representative said.

Traffic congestion, which had decreased because of scooter popularity, will likely worsen, the Lime official said. Meanwhile, revenue the city earned with every ride will stop streaming in. Hoboken could have made $500,000 annually under the terms of the pilot program, the Lime representative added.

But the city knows how much Lime is profiting off of it, Giattino said, and she does not have an issue with ditching Lime altogether and switching to another provider.

“Every scooter company across the country is contacting every council member saying why they want to be in Hoboken,” she said.

©2019 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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