Home » The Cost To Protect Pedestrian Safety


We try to estimate what the City would need to spend to protect pedestrian safety from the threats created by the scooter rental industry and its users. We examine costs under three main categories:

  • Evaluation of companies under the RFP,
  • Monitoring of their compliance with the City's regulations and the requirements of the RFP contracts, and,
  • Enforcement against those companies identified as being non-compliant.

In developing our estimate we indicate the areas in which the City promised to act to protect the safety of pedestrians yet did not. For example, at the end of 2019, in response to the County of San Diego's Grand Jury report, it assured the public that it had hired a contractor to impound scooters and we contrast that with a recent statement by a City staff member who indicates that impounding is no longer being conducted and is no longer necessary as the scooter companies now "self-manage" the issues that impounding was intended to correct. The budget for doing nothing is zero dollars.

Many categories of cost were unknown. Initially we generated an estimated total cost range of $2m - $3.3m which we knew was an underestimate. The difference between the top and bottom of the range was the extend to which the one assumed the City would pay for enforcement against moving violations. One can assume that were the City to apply the degree of enforcement we suggest the minimum cost would be over $2m.

We also estimate the income under the new RFP contract scheme and it was apparent before the SMD program started that, if the City was to properly protect pedestrians, the total cost of doing so would be significantly greater than the income the City would receive from the fees applied when the RFP contracts came into effect.

However In November 2023 Director Muto of the Sustainability and Mobility department stated that the cost of the City's SMD program "across all departments" was between $1.1m and $1.3m. That covers most of the costs that were unknown to us apart from $100,000 for a Program Manager. Adding our estimates to hers and allowing for the Program Manager's salary we therefore estimate the total cost of an SMD program with effective measures to protect pedestrian safety to be $3m - $4.5m. Our analysis can be examined here.

Not only is the current fee structure, which is based on the number of scooters deployed, inadequate to generate anything close to this, Director Muto and CM Lee (D6) proposed to the Council a new fee structure which would slash the current income even further. That proposal was withdrawn at the January 2024 Council meeting, but may yet re-emerge. It needs to be opposed strongly as it represents a subsidy to the scooter rental industry of taxpayer dollars.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were given to dockless motorized scooter rental companies by investors and then lost. Companies valued in the $Bs are now only worth a fraction of that or have gone out of business. Taxpayers should not be asked to throw their good money after bad.

Special enforcement against moving violations by SDPD.
Special enforcement against moving violations by SDPD.