Lime scooters to return to St. Paul, but bike-sharing remains an unknown

The St. Paul City Council is poised to enter into a five-year agreement with Lime to bring e-scooters back to the capital city.

The council on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on whether to approve an agreement with the San Francisco-based vendor to provide electric-assist scooters for 2022, with the option to renew for four additional one-year terms upon mutual agreement. St. Paul has permitted e-scooter sharing programs since 2018, when Lime and a major competitor, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Bird, flew into the Twin Cities market unlicensed by the multiple municipalities in which they operate.

Both companies later sought permission — more so than forgiveness — and have operated on year-to-year agreements reviewed by the city council, St. Paul Public Works and other powers that be at City Hall.

City officials have not indicated whether e-bikes or Bird scooters will also roll back into town, but they did confirm on Thursday that they are in conversation with several shared mobility vendors. While Nice Ride, a nonprofit bike-sharing vendor and Lyft affiliate, continues to roll through Minneapolis, St. Paul hasn’t hosted bike-sharing — either e-bikes or more traditional Nice Ride bikes — since 2019.

Last fall, the city entered into a memorandum of understanding with Minneapolis to participate in a joint solicitation program, with the goal to coordinate similar offerings on either side of the Mississippi River. Lime has also returned to Minneapolis.

“Each of us is putting together separate contracts,” said Lisa Hiebert, a spokesperson for St. Paul Public Works. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have a scooter and a bike-sharing program in St. Paul this year.”

The written resolution that the city council will vote upon next week calls e-scooters an “emerging new mobility option that has proven very popular in other cities across the U.S. and internationally for moving around town using a low-carbon mobility option” and “an important and valuable transportation service for St. Paul residents and visitors.”

Among the details, Lime will pay the city a trip fee of 10 cents per trip for every trip that begins or ends within the city. Those fees are paid to St. Paul on a monthly basis.

In addition to regular trip fees, Lime will pay a “park impact fee” of 20 cents per scooter for all trips that begin or end on city parkland. The city will also be reimbursed for staff time spent relocating or removing scooters from prohibited locations, at the rate of $35 per scooter, as well as a $20-per-day storage rate at the city’s Dale Street Public Works facility.

However, unless a scooter is impeding maintenance work or city operations, the city is expected to notify Lime of the issue before relocating the scooter to an allowed location. Lime will then have two hours to comply, or 10 hours for issues reported between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

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