Austin Transportation Department brakes on issuing licenses to dockless mobility companies

Bird offers 1,000 dockless scooters in the downtown Austin area.

Bird offers 1,000 dockless scooters in the downtown Austin area.

The Austin Transportation Department announced Jan. 17 it has paused issuing new licenses to dockless mobility operators while city staff assesses the demand for the dockless mobility vehicles—electric bikes and scooters—already available.

"The goal is to help ensure that companies are able to continue providing a safe, reliable, convenient transportation option for residents, while safeguarding mobility," the department wrote in a news release.

The city began issuing licenses to operators in April after Lime and Bird launched in Austin without prior approval.

Operators then also have to apply for permits for individual vehicles. So far, the city has issued 17,650 permits, the majority of which belong to electric scooters.

There are 10 companies that are licensed to operate in Austin, although three have not yet launched their services.

ATD staff will monitor the use of current licenses, including the average number of daily trips per vehicle, through monthly reports companies are required to submit per city regulations.

Once this data has been collected and analyzed, the staff will decide whether to resume issuing licenses. No timeframe was provided for when this decision will be made.

Currently, dockless mobility companies are restricted to 500 units within the Downtown Austin Project Coordination Zone and must maintain a minimum average of two trips per day per vehicle.

Exceptions are granted to companies that have demonstrated best practices in device safety, usage and management. Bird is the only licensed company with more than 500 units downtown; it has 1,000 permits to operate in that zone.

Outside of downtown, companies are required to maintain a minimum average of three trips per day per vehicle, a metric that is verified against the monthly reports.