Soon after Seattle concluded its traditional docked bikeshare system, Pronto, various dockless private bikeshare companies announced their intentions to move into the market, per the Curbed article linked below. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) responded with a six month pilot program that regulates dockless bikesharing. Launched in July, 2017 the program includes relevant extant regulations for bicycles (e.g. lights, helmets, etc.), and establishes new regulations, such as granting SDOT the right to geo-fence where the shared bikes may be parked, and provisions for e-bikes. The program also requires customer service staffing, and real-time location data sharing. The Seattle Bikeshare Permit Application along with additional resources is available below.
The permit process for bikeshare drew attention for allowing a more flexible and dynamic relationship between the private sector and SDOT than the traditional RFP process. Moreover, the permitting process has the potential to extend beyond bikeshare, as carshare companies such as car2go and ReachNow may now work directly with SDOT on developing compliant shared mobility services when applying for a permit, as noted in the GeekWire article linked below.
SDOT Director Scott Kubly notes that cities are starting to realize that it might be more efficient to issue a permit for certain types of service rather than follow a formal procurement process: “You could think about bike sharing, for example. A city could spend a year and a half to two years going through the procurement process, issuing the RFP, evaluating the RFP, negotiating the contract and launching the service, that can take easily two years if you’re moving quickly. But when you have a willing private sector partner that can help you meet your public policy goals and they still have a private business model that works as a consumer service.” (Geekwire)
Updated November 2018