Longtime San Francisco fixture Scoot, a scooter and moped rental company, will indefinitely pause operations on July 1. The company also faces a six-figure financial penalty for various permit violations after receiving a cease and desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last month.
The SFMTA sent an initial letter to Scoot on May 21, stating that Scoot’s use of subcontractors was unauthorized and in violation of its permit. According to the Powered Scooter Share Program permit, companies are allowed to subcontract or delegate operations only with prior approval from the transit agency.
The SFMTA had earlier informed Scoot, on May 10, that three subcontractors it worked with — Puma Couriers LLC, Martin Bros. Inc. and Bay City Bikes — were not approved. But the transit agency received no reply from Scoot, according to the May 21 letter. One day prior, on May 20, the transit agency received confirmation from Scoot that operations were still being conducted by two of the companies.
In a June 25 letter, the SFMTA notified Scoot it was being hit with a $105,600 penalty, mostly made up of $100-per-day fines dating back to August, 2020. The listed violations included the unauthorized subcontractors, not providing proof of insurance for the subcontractors, and compliance violations like not notifying the SFMTA of charging locations.
Scoot received its initial city permit in October, 2019, after being purchased by rival scooter rental company Bird in June 2019. The original Scoot moped service launched in San Francisco in 2012, and grew to include kick scooters launched in 2018. The company also expanded to Barcelona and Santiago.
Mission Local has not yet received a reply from Scoot.
According to a June 25 statement from the SFMTA, the violations were “revelations” that only came to light recently. Of four applicants, only Spin and Lime will receive 2021 permits on July 1, with 2,000 scooters each. Scoot will cease operations in San Francisco indefinitely.
“The SFMTA takes these issues very seriously,” reads the statement, “and will defer a decision on 2021 permit issuance to Scoot to allow time for full investigation and complete its evaluation. Scoot service will pause on July 1st during this time.”
UPDATE: A Bird spokesperson sent Mission Local the following statement: “Scoot is proud to have worked with the City for nearly a decade providing shared micro electric vehicles for San Francisco. We are cooperating fully with the SFMTA to swiftly resolve the procedural mishaps that occurred while urgently providing existing local businesses an alternative source of revenue during the pandemic. We apologize for the inconvenience to our riders during this evaluation period and are eager to once again serve San Francisco residents and visitors as soon as possible.” –June 29, 1:15 p.m.
Update on Aug. 20, 2021, at 6:47 p.m.: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on Aug. 20 granted Scoot a pro-rated permit valid from Aug. 20 to June 30, 2022, to continue operating in San Francisco. The previous permit’s 1,500-scooter cap remains.
All issues relating to the investigation have been resolved, according to the transportation agency. The new permit’s terms clarify that approved subcontractors must abide by the permit’s terms, the agency told Mission Local — and the agency is asking Scoot to resubmit any information required of the subcontractors it plans to use in the upcoming permit period.
Scoot told Mission Local it’s “actively working” to redeploy its scooters in the coming weeks.