Scooting Through Regulation with Sanjay Dastoor (Skip Scooters) and Emily Warren (Lime) | Disrupt SF (Day 2)
2:58AM Sep 7, 2018
Megan Rose Dickey
So here to discuss both the startup perspective and what will should be done inside cities about this phenomenon is Sanjay dastoor from Skip scooters, which is a new, interesting heavy duty scooter and Tom Maguire from the SF MTA and ever going to be in conversation with techcrunch's very own Megan Rose Dickie. Round of applause. Please everybody.
Hello everyone. So how many of you remember believe it was back in March when all of a sudden bird lime and spin scooters just kind of appeared all over the city. Anyone remember that? Okay, nice. Well, yeah, I'm here. Brian. You don't. You don't live here. But okay, that's my coworker doesn't matter.
So I'm here with with Sanjay of skip and Tom Maguire of the SF MTA. And within the last week San Francisco actually decided which which scooters to offer permits to for which companies offer permission for electric scooters. Sanjay skip was one of those permits. What does this mean for your company?
We're excited to be, you know, given the opportunity to serve our hometown. So we've been working on electric scooter sharing in San Francisco for the better part of a year now. But we chose to launch in Washington DC across the country because we were able to create a permit process with them. We've always wanted to be able to operate here but wanted to do it through collaboration with different parts of the city and with the auspices of the SF MTA. So we're really excited to be here nice
And Tom, I mean, what do you ultimately envision from from this pilot program? So you know you you gave permits to skip and school that could you know change over the years but initially those are the two so what do you kind of hope to get from this this pilot
that that's right we offer the permits to scoot and skip and we see this a one year pilot that we're embarking on is learning experience for the city for us in government for the permitted private sector companies and for the city as a whole I think there was a lot of really vigorous debate about whether scooters worked in San Francisco where they were safe when they were the right whether they were the right thing to permit in the city and we want to we want to take the the energy and the innovation of the private sector is clearly bring into this mode of transportation and prove it out in the street and prove it out in a way that we have some oversight over the safety and the operation of the scooters
How How was it for you when you know when those three companies just deployed the scooters in San Francisco back in March. What? Like, where you just kind of like, Whoa, we did not see this coming, or what was that like?
So. So we'd heard a little bit about the scooters rolling out in Southern California. So it was not it was not a total whoa moment for us. But it was it was very sudden. And it was not something that we had any sort of legal frameworks in place for. We love small scale electric mobility in San Francisco. We are being crushed by traffic in San Francisco. And we have to find ways to get this growing population around without using cars
that said, we we we were definitely caught back on our heels in March when those three companies launched
How do you think this this kind of compares to the the earlier days of ride hailing
you know, the the the the uptake of ride hailing was up was maybe maybe a little a little slower. One of the one of the things that happened in the evolution of ride hailing is that ultimately the state of sort of the jurisdiction over Uber and Lyft in San Francisco. So we don't really have much control over the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles that operate in our city. And unfortunately, that is that has proven to be part of the reason we have this traffic problem we have.
But But I think what's different this time is that we were able to move really quickly to get meaningful regulations in place. And we're confident that we've got some private sector actors who are going to
roll out scooters in a way that really meets the public interest
So Sanjay, October 15 is when you can officially deploy your scooters in San Francisco is that the plan October 15 we'll see skip scooters on the street?
Yeah, there's actually a lot of work to do between now and then working with SF MTA to provide more materials and show certain plans. The initial proposal that we submitted in early June was kind of a preliminary proposal. Now the work begins to actually make sure we're deploying in the right areas that we have the right processes in place. There's a fair bit of work to do. So we're we're still busy now. But our scooters are ready to go and our team is is ready to hit that date
And in the past week I mean I just think generally some concerns with electric scooters are around safety whether that's you know safety of pedestrians on the sidewalks, safety of the people riding the scooters themselves. A couple of days ago there was an unfortunate accident where someone actually died while riding a scooter from from another company.
I mean in terms of like, I mean, how does that kind of affect your thinking when you around safety and skip scooter is and ensuring people are wearing helmets and all of that.
Yeah, it's um, it's been interesting to see this changing over time. So I started working on light electric vehicles that were meant to operate in the bike lane about seven years ago with boosted boards. And what we saw was that it's very hard to control individual behavior, right? You have safe drivers and unsafe drivers you have safe cyclists and unsafe cyclists and so
I think scooter sharing isn't going to be any different but what We can do is, you know, focus on the safety of the vehicle focus on education of riders focus on providing access to things like helmets through either technologies on the scooter or programs that we support on the back end.
And then there's also the safety of the people around you. Right? So how do you think about the etiquette of you going by someone on the sidewalk at 15 miles an hour or the way you pass cyclists are the way you you park the vehicle and whether it tips over right afterwards. So there's a bunch of different aspects to it. But I am generally optimistic that the good actors will outweigh the bad
and and Tom for you. I mean, best case scenario, how do you see electric scooters fitting into the current transportation ecosystem in the city?
Well, there's this there's this problem and transportation that we sometimes call the first mile last mile problem. And scooters are just perfectly adapted to position rather to to help solve that problem. We're a city that has prioritized moving as many people as possible and mass transit. And we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars and expanding the Muni system. And the Caltrain electrification.
But not everyone lives within walking distance of really reliable transit in San Francisco. And so things like bike share things like scooters share, can help bridge that gap. So that people don't need to get in their car to gets in transit or don't need to get in their car to get around. They can be transit users, and they've got something convenient to help them get around, get get to and from mass transit.
And then, of course, the vast majority of trips that are made in San Francisco are very short distances. Most most trips or whether you're looking at Uber Lyft trips, you're looking at the majority of trips that are made by walking, most people aren't going that far, you know, outside of their sort of their telecommute and so we definitely see a niche role a big niche for for this kind of small scale electric mobility.
And do you envision their ever being scooter specific lanes or anything like that? I know, I know in other cities, they've kind of they've been thinking about like, okay, like how can we make it more clear that an electric scooter is allowed to be here like maybe along with the bikes in their own lane or or how's the SF MTA thinking about that?
Yeah, I think we'll learn more about that during the pilot we've got this goal in San Francisco called Vision Zero we want to end all traffic fatalities by 2024 and unfortunately we lose between 20 and 30 people a year in our streets so our vision is to make the streets so safe that people on foot people on bikes people on shared electric scooters and other small scale modes like that are just are just safe that that they're not being hit and killed by cars so I think there's some discussions down the road about are you allowed to use a bike lane what size St. Leger right on will learn a lot this year about that stuff but what I want to do is create a street system where everyone safe no matter where you ride
and Sanjay Is that something that you would want with skip for there to be
scooters specific lanes would that be helpful or do you think that there's
Yeah yeah just lands it only allow scooters will be great. No, no, I think you know, I think generally you're seeing cities have the sidewalk the bike lane and the car lane.
And the Carlene we're seeing increasingly it's just not the place to solve a lot of these problems it doesn't solve short trips very effectively it has to accommodate vehicles that are designed for highway speeds. And so you end up with a lot more metal and cost in that vehicle that you may not need for that short one mile trip.
And then this the sidewalk really should be for pedestrians, you shouldn't have a lot of, you know, vehicles moving at 15 miles an hour next to someone who's trying to walk three miles an hour or someone in a wheelchair that should really be kind of a safe space for them. And so I think the bike lanes going to expand to include scooters, bicycles, electric bicycles, electric skateboards, other kinds of light mobility, as long as the speeds are low enough, and the weight of the vehicle and the form factor is the right one. I think that lanes actually going to get better and improve. And, you know, one, San Francisco is one of the places we're committing to invest in Berkeley and infrastructure.
But I think bike infrastructure investments going to benefit a lot of systems like these and it's gonna get a lot of support from the people who are using them that's potentially much broader than the cyclists who've been advocating for them for a year so far.
So as everyone knows, I mean there there are number of these electric scooter companies, how Sanjay for you. I mean, how do you envision getting brand loyalty? Because I mean, at least for me, when when all the scooters were just out on the streets in San Francisco, it doesn't really matter. To me. If it was a bird, a lime or a spin, it was just the closest scooter to me. So I mean, maybe like, even like after this pilot program, when they're theoretically more more companies to compete with, how do you plan to to get people to pick skip over over one of the other ones?
Yeah, so I think it's maybe two phases. The first phase is that there isn't actually like you said, you know, there isn't a strong sense of I'm going to go pick the scooter that want to pick the one that's closest, right and pick the ones closest that's at least, you know, this level of safety, reliability. And so I don't think it's zero sum. I don't think that we win and someone else loses if someone picks are scooter I think there's actually going to be a lot more demand than this initial cap is going to allow for but the cap provides a way to understand how the system works before we increase the number it makes sure that it's working well for everyone, and not just the writers
over time, I think you end up making a brand that people find compelling by focusing on things like safety, like reliability, like cleanliness of the vehicle
You know, I like to use, you know, any, any kind of transportation system, like I'm happier when it's those things. So that's what we focus on the cities we already operate in. And that's what we're focused on here.
And then, I mean, for the SF MTA. I mean, it doesn't particularly matter which, which company as long as they're, you know, following and adhering to those, those guidelines of the SF MTA has set out
Right, we set a pretty high bar through this permitting process, and we certainly expect that both skip scooter going to meet the terms they agree to our focus. Our focus is on one hand in welcoming this kind of innovation and trying to find ways to make it work. But on a day to day basis. We're looking after the safety of San Franciscans and especially on the sidewalk. I'm really glad to hear what Sanjay said about you know, the sidewalk not being the place for 15 25 mile an hour scooters zipping along? But rather, you know, let's make the streets safe. Let's make the streets so safe that people feel safe writing scooters there.
And I mean
I guess how do you how do you envision just over time I mean just with this electric scooter program like in terms of usage like what will what will like a successful pilot program look like?
Yeah so the the kind of overarching principles we've been talking about our safety accountability and equity we we certainly want to we want to get through this year
with safe operations so clearly we don't want those kinds of high profile crashes you talked about think there was a car versus a car versus a scooter in Cleveland
so that that's the baseline they want to safe safe operation and then we also want to see that you know one of the things one of the reasons why skipping school were successful in this process is they they talked about making sure that the scooters are not just downtown route and neighborhoods and we we talked about these neighborhoods we call communities of concern, low income communities, communities of color
that, you know, these two successful scooter applicants have committed to 20% of their scooters in those neighborhoods. And so will be will be getting a lot of data. So we're really excited about getting that data and we'll be we'll be looking to see whether we're creating a mode that works for everyone. Not not just for a few people downtown.
Yes. And so I know that initially that's of empty, I was hoping to have a decision made, I believe it's like by July, but then it got, you know, pushed to August end of August. What was kind of happening in the meantime, they're like, why did the process kind of get extended?
Well, the first thing is, we were we were pleasantly surprised that we had there were 1212 different companies that applied for scooters, we honestly didn't expect anything like that. So
great. Great to see that level of interest. So 1212 applications, over 1000 pages of material that we needed to review and we had to take the time to do it right
there. There was a lot of attention on this as you said. I mean, you're in the introduction you said
this was an issue that that just had had the eyes of lots of people in San Francisco and they were really counting on us to look out for the safety and accountability concerns that they that they saw. So we had to take the time to do it. Right.
I know some folks were probably disappointed that we didn't do it sooner. But I think it was well it was well worth the effort. I think we have the right people in the program
and when you see the decisions of other cities like which cities they decide to go with
which companies they decide to go with in terms of granting permits so in Santa Monica they ended up going with with Lyman bird and San Francisco very different story skipping school does that mean does that make you wonder oh did we pick the did we pick the right companies like what is Santa Monica think that what are we missing that that maybe they know and
I wonder if they're wondering you
know, you know, Santa Monica was in a different position they
They've issued permits that cover a wider range of shared mobility, including I think, some some dockless bike share as well. We've got programs in place for those modes. And we're pretty, you know, we've been very happy with the performance of jump, for instance, in their dockless Bike Share system. So, so we were really focused specifically on the scooter modes. That was one way in which we're different from Santa Monica.
Any other other thing is that our geography is different. We were much denser city, frankly, I think the market for scooter rides is much better in San Francisco. So you know, we just we wanted the best the applicants who brought the best
scooter mode to San Francisco
and Sanjay I'm wondering why you went from you know, personally owned electric vehicles like boosted boards to shared electric vehicles and what what value you saw in making that shift?
Yeah, I was actually really surprised when we started working on boosted boards and we saw so many people who had never touched a skateboard before. So this is one of the most important things that I own. And we dug into that. And, and we found that
the idea of a light electric vehicle that's bike lane compatible, that's, you know, relatively easy to kind of learn how to use, there's a lot of Licensing and Regulation around it, you know, of parking tickets, and, you know, DMV fees and things like that, and really complimented not just these need for short trips. But also it allowed them to access things like public transit much more easily.
And so in the same way that the car industry or the car lane has served by, you know, different, you know, private ownership models and shared shared rides and things like that. I saw the same opportunity of the bike lane with these small vehicles. And so I've been thinking about you know, how to bring kind of the magic that people talk about who own these products and you know, Josh con steam techcrunch's is one of those who says, like, this is an incredible thing, how to bring that magic to more people.
And so the shared shared system I think, is in some ways much more accessible. You're not paying $500 thousand dollars for this vehicle yourself you not worried about it getting stolen, which can be you know huge blow if you're counting on this thing for your daily commute you're not worried about the maintenance of the vehicle it's taken care of by someone else and then you know relieves you of that need to worry about what happens to when it's done. You just leave it at the BART station you get on board and you know so I think there's opportunity for both and I think they're both kind of grow
I mean, I guess I'm wondering if you worry that you know, people will will be running around in these skip scooters have a really great time and then think, Oh, well, I'll just buy my own and I'll stop using skip like, is that a concern for you?
That's great. I mean, I think it's really important that people are getting out of cars and are using these vehicles, whether they're privately owned or shared, like I'm a believer. And in both modes, I think they're both going to improve and I think infrastructure improvements that happen as a result of the shared pilot programs benefit private ownership that's the biggest thing we heard from people who bought these vehicles they said oh man, I I love this thing but I just move somewhere that doesn't have great bike lanes and I don't feel safe writing
and so so I'm no Worried about people moving? I actually think it's going to be better for some people to own these vehicles and better for some people to share them. And both will be successful.
So over in, in DC, where we have a permit and have been operating for a few months now about six months and six months, what's what's usage like there? And specifically, I'm wondering how like, how many return return writers do you have? Like, how often does the average writer get on a skip scooter? Like per month? Let's say
yeah, so there's kind of two categories of writers. There's people who are visiting town. So Washington, DC has a lot of tourists, a lot of visitors. And then you have the people who are there on a regular basis. And then for those you have, you know, commuter users, you've got people running errands, you've got people around campuses like Georgetown and GW who might be using it for different kinds of trips, so we don't have good segmentation between those. But generally, we see a few trips a week from the people who are actively using it, we see very strong retention and if you were to look at kind of the standard retention curves You actually see people use it and then increase their usage over time as it becomes more of a habit.
And and you see, you know, generally very positive reviews. If you look at the App Store for our service and others, you'll see people say, this is now part of how I get around. So overall pretensions been really strong. And I think it's, I think it's here to stay. I don't think it's a fad.
Yeah, and I guess just yet, speaking of usage among like, tourists versus residents, Tom, I mean, in San Francisco and I mean, you've, you know, you've overseen the the bike share program, are you I guess, yes. First, what have you seen with the bike share program? Is it more can you tell if it's more like tourists versus residents are like who's really who's really riding around on these on the bikes?
Sure, sure. We have we have to bike share services in San Francisco
for go bikes, which are the doc the larger doc system and then we also have 250, dockless jump bikes. I think at broad strokes we know that the majority of folks using the the bike share system are either residents or employees. So not necessarily tourists, we know that a large number of them are buying the very affordable hundred and $50 annual membership. And then a subset of them are actually buying the $5 annual membership for qualifying low income riders. So it's definitely a mo that's probably more for the that's being taken up maybe more by San Franciscans than by tourists. There are bike rental companies there's other folks who can serve the very specific tourism niche pretty well but the
the loyalty and the you know, the number of rides per user among the the annual or monthly writers has been going up so you know, it's to the point of making it a habit it's a great habit of riding a bike riding a scooter if that's a great habit from the systems point of view, great habit for people to get into.
And you mentioned that you have this view of like Vision Zero what when do you think that if all goes according to plan? When will that happen Do you think
So we're what we said we said in 2014 we said in 2014 we see we're no longer accepting traffic fatalities in San Francisco we've three years use words like accident and we don't say accident anymore we say crash say fatality, we say things are are everything's preventable.
And so we're trying to do our part by redesigning the streets and re engineering the streets in San Francisco
to lower traffic speeds and to make shared mobility especially small shared mobility work better Our goal is to get there by 2024 It's a long way to go lost 34 people in 2013 year before we adopted Vision Zero that numbers down to 20 last year
in no way want to take a victory lap for that kind of decline the only acceptable number zero that's the point of vision zero but our goal is to get there by 2024
okay and you It sounds like you see scooters as playing a big role in that or is it scooters in combination with
With bikes with public transportation with Caltrain Muni Bart
yeah I think the I think the challenge we're facing now when we talk about vision zero or or even making transit work better on our streets is that
this is happening at a time when the number of vehicles in the street is increasing. So even as even as on a percentage basis more more people are choosing sustainable ways to get around the city is growing so fast that the number of cars is increasing and the only way we're gonna get to zero is to is to pretty significantly reduce the number of cars in the street and likewise the only way we're going to get the performance we need that our transit system which is the way to support the growing cities is to reduce the number of cars in the street so reducing vehicle traffic scooters bikes play a huge part in that is is part of that reduction
and Sunday so we've seen we've seen some scooter companies raise hundreds of millions of dollars at multi billion dollar valuations. It's all that money necessary to have a successful scooter business.
Yeah, it's a great question. So I think your ability to serve any one particular city does not depend on having that much cash. But your ability to scale to 50 cities, or 100 cities, or 200 cities definitely does, right? It's a complicated operation. You have to run, you know, slightly different systems and all these different cities, it's a lot of people, it's a lot of scooters. And so I think that capital has been used by other companies to try to go into as many cities as possible as quickly as possible.
We've tried to focus on making our system work as well as possible and a few cities and specifically investing in technology development that doesn't just benefit the riders but that might benefit pedestrians or or other people who are not the core users. I've actually been one of our core principles so you know, our ability to do those things, develop locking mechanisms, or tip over detection or other technologies and our scooters, those don't need that much capital.
So we've been able to operate pretty efficiently and effectively in fewer cities. build this technology systems out maintain conversations with different cities as they roll out permit processes like San Francisco, there's only a few cities that actually have a formal permit. A lot of them are still in process. And so our goal is to scale what what we're doing much larger. But we don't need the capital today to do that.
Okay. I mean, how many cities do you envision being in within the next 12 months?
Hundreds? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And while you know, going through the proper the proper processes like permitting processes
Yeah, so a lot of cities are watching what San Francisco does what Washington DC has done, folks like Tom and his counterparts in other cities are all talking to each other to understand, you know, trade notes and understand what's working well and what's not. And so you're going to see a lot more cities come online with payment processes in the next six to 12 months. And we're in conversations with all of them because they're interested in some of our technologies. They're interested in our approach, but there isn't, there isn't necessarily a need to go into 50 cities to tomorrow in order to make this an effective business.
Okay. cities have you been kind of sharing notes with would you say
Well, we certainly talked to Washington and God gotta read on the on their experience with skip.
I think one thing that we find with shared mobility is because so much innovation is happening here. And there's so much interest in shared mobility here. A lot of cities are looking to San Francisco to provide a little bit of leadership and a little bit of structure around what a good regulatory program would look like.
And we saw that with with with shared stationary bikes, we've seen that with car share. We've seen that with private transit vehicles like sharing all these things that didn't really exist on the street even six or seven years ago, which we've managed to bring successfully those choices to San Franciscans. So we know we know that a lot of other cities are watching this pilot and we want this to succeed. I think I think
cities where there's interest in a good regulated scooter system wanted to succeed and we're looking forward to sharing those lessons.
Alright, well thanks so much for joining me. I appreciate it.
Thanks. Thank you.