In another unanimous vote from last night’s Hoboken City Council meeting, the governing body approved a new E-scooter contract with providers Lime and Ojo that could potentially net the city around $100,000 for the duration of the new pilot program.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Under the new contract, Hoboken would receive a contribution of 35 cents per ride from the two e-scooter companies.
The investments will be allocated specifically for enforcement and education associated with the e-scooter program, as well as Vision Zero pedestrian safety infrastructure, including protected bike lanes, according to Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s office.
“Hoboken’s electric scooter sharing program is one of the most popular in the world, and provides an environmentally friendly and convenient way to get around without driving a vehicle,” Bhalla said in a statement.
“The approved contract amendment, negotiated by my transportation team over the past two months, will make six figure investments into much needed safety and enforcement tools to ensure rules and regulations of the program are followed. I completely understand the very valid concerns voiced by residents regarding pedestrian safety associated with the e-scooters, and am hopeful this contract will make the e-scooter experience safer for everyone.”
Predictably, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco blamed the mayor for the city’s recent struggles with E-scooter safety, particularly the “rushed roll-out” of the program.
“I have always believed eScooters can revolutionize micro-mobility and transportation in Hoboken, but the Mayor’s rushed roll-out has resulted in serious public safety concerns. For this program to succeed long term though, it’s important for us to immediately begin making the proper investments in rider safety and transportation infrastructure,” he said in his own statement.
“The new contract that myself and Councilwoman Fisher advocated for allows us to generate substantial revenue to properly enforce scooter laws and build safer streets without straining taxpayer resources. I’m happy to see the mayor act on our call to renegotiate the existing contracts and put the safety of our residents above all else and believe these new terms are a step in the right direction in finding ways to implement a more sustainable program.”
Which while many on social media have complained that E-scooters are a nuisance, only one related arrest has been reported to date and officials have noted that enforcement has been ramped up since the initial rollout of the program on May 20th.
Furthermore, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said that while E-scooter safety and enforcement needs to be improved, she voted yes on last night’s measure due to the ability to collect new revenue.
“That being said, I supported last night’s contract amendments because it allows Hoboken to collect a fair share of ridership revenue with hopes this additional money will be used to implement a more drastic and immediate safety and enforcement plan,” she said.
“Keeping our streets safe has been my top priority since we brought this program to Hoboken and it’s frustrating to see the administration use a last minute political gimmick, albeit a cause I support, to cover up the shortcomings in the new agreements.”
She added that she agreed to table the second reading of an ordinance banning E-scooters from the waterfront as a dialogue with Parking and Transportation Director Ryan Sharp continues on the issue.
Improvements potentially on the horizon include a pilot for protected bike lanes on the remaining portions of Sinatra Drive along the waterfront, updated markings and signage for the protected bike lanes on the lower waterfront, and ridership, enforcement and incident statistics for the waterfront to be provided to the council.
In response, city spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri stated that it was Fisher who was the one playing politics.
“Councilwoman Fisher can’t have it both ways – she requested the amendment, voted in favor of the amendment, and now turns around and criticizes that very same amendment,” he said.
“It is clear to anyone who read the memo from the Mayor detailing the amendment, that the six figure anticipated contributions to the City from the e-scooter companies are literally allocated for enforcement and safety – precisely what the Councilwoman requested. While she might be playing politics now, Mayor Bhalla appreciates her affirmative vote for his proposed agreement when it mattered.”
Additionally, the council voted down two attempts to have a non-binding referendum question on the November 5th ballot, when all six ward council seats are up for grabs, with several electeds expressing that the issue could be resolved before the fall.