Sour Aftertaste

Lime scooters were popular on the CSUMB campus during a one-year contract; students logged 115,000 rides from September to May.

Ten months ago, San Francisco-based Lime made a splash on the CSU Monterey Bay campus, introducing more than 200 electric scooters. Students logged 115,000 rides between September and May, according to campus spokesperson Noah Rappahahn. On March 28, the company wooed local city officials and media at an event at Window on the Bay in Monterey to introduce its latest model. Less than two months later, however, Lime’s bid to gain a foothold in Monterey County has soured.

Simultaneous to the Monterey event, Lime executives were in negotiations with the city of Marina over a contract that would formally allow the company to do business there – something Lime had already been doing without asking permission, since introducing scooters to CSUMB last fall. The two sides hammered out an agreement on a host of issues but could not agree on how much insurance Lime should carry.

The city turned to the Monterey Bay Area Self Insurance Authority for guidance, which recommended requiring Lime to carry commercial general liability insurance that would cover $5 million per occurrence with no annual aggregate, a term for the total paid out in one year for all claims. Lime executives balked. In a letter dated April 2, the company offered Marina either $1 million per occurrence and $4 million in umbrella protection for the city, or the same deal it had with CSUMB – $2 million per occurrence and a $4 million aggregate.

Marina Assistant City Manager Matt Mogensen says that’s not enough to protect the city from future claims. He cites examples where brain injury claims reached $50 million. “The city is left holding the bag at the end of the day,” he says. “These companies don’t want to share in the risk.”

On May 21 he told Marina City Council negotiations were over and that Lime had pulled its nearby scooters due to the company’s one-year contract with CSUMB ending.

“From what I understand, they’re not coming back,” Mogensen says.

Of CSUMB, Rappahahn says, “We were good business for them, but just not enough to support their regional team alone.”

Lime remains noncommittal in its plans. A spokesperson writes by email, “[Lime] remains hopeful we can find a long-term partnership tailored to the needs of the region.”

The insurance question could be settled in the state Legislature this year. On May 22, AB 1286 passed out of the Assembly 47-12 and is now pending in the Senate. It would set a limit of $1 million per occurrence and a $5 million aggregate for all occurrences during a policy period.

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Pam Marino joined the Monterey County Weekly in November 2016. She covers the communities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, Del Rey Oaks, Pebble Beach and North County. She also covers tourism, health, housing and homelessness, business and agriculture.

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