Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The Birds and Limes in downtown San Antonio have been joined by Blue Ducks.
Homegrown and locally based e-scooter startup Blue Duck Scooters, which has been operating a couple dozen scooters in the Pearl since mid-July, made its formal launch Wednesday deploying scooters near the downtown Houston Street corridor commonly known as the tech district.
"We've been working toward this for months, and we're delighted to be out here giving folks a true local option related to e-scooters," President Eric Bell said.
The company is one of three scooter operators in the city. Santa Monica, California-based Bird entered the fray in June releasing hundreds of the app-enabled, rechargeable scooters in downtown San Antonio, and San Mateo, California-headquartered LimeBike began offering its scooter-share services last month.
All three companies charge riders a base fee of a dollar and 15 cents for every minute of usage. Bell said Blue Duck is exploring commuter packages as well as discounts for lower-income riders and military members.
Blue Duck's fleet is made up of dozens of scooters, and the company plans on adding dozens more each day, Bell said.
"We're not just throwing stuff out on the streets," he said. "We're rolling them out pragmatically."
John Jacks, director of San Antonio's Center City Development and Operations Department, said a total of seven scooter-share companies have contacted the City and expressed interest in offering their services locally. Jacks said he anticipates as many as five companies operating in San Antonio this fall.
In terms of its fleet, Blue Duck remains a small part of the local e-scooter landscape. According to the City of San Antonio, 400 scooters comprise Bird's San Antonio fleet while LimeBike operates 345 scooters.
On Wednesday morning, eight Blue Duck scooters were parked right outside the Rand Building on Houston Street, which houses the tech-centric co-working space Geekdom. And the company's mobile app features a geolocation map for finding scooters.
According to the map, there were seven locations in and around North Main Avenue, East Houston Street, and Soledad Street in which scooters could be found. Two markers on the map indicated scooter locations in the Pearl area.
San Antonio isn't the only market Blue Duck is eyeing. The company plans to launch in cities throughout the South and could make college campuses a focal point of its expansion strategy, Bell has said.
Blue Duck representatives also have shown interest in taking scooter-share to corporate campuses.
The e-scooter company has a different model than its competitors for collecting the vehicles at night and deploying them again in the morning. Instead of hiring contractors, known as chargers, to recharge and reset its scooter fleet, Blue Duck’s in-house staff picks up the vehicles, inspects them for any damage, and if they are safe enough, releases them the next day.
Blue Duck officials also have said the company supports geofencing, a technology that restricts parking and usage in certain areas – for example, wheelchair-accessible ramps and pedestrian plazas – through GPS.
A geofencing-enabled scooter can beep as the vehicle nears an area, such as Alamo Plaza or the Mission Reach, where use might be restricted, and eventually shut off if the geofenced area is entered. If a scooter is stopped in an area where parking is unauthorized, the app will not allow a rider to end his or her scooter session. If the person were to abandon the scooter without ending the session, he or she would continue to be charged for usage.
In July, the company hired the OCI Group, a government relations firm, to lobby for e-scooter-friendly regulations and infrastructure throughout the state. Locally, Blue Duck representative Casey Whittington said the company is focused on crafting a plan to build dedicated lanes for bicyclists and scooterists in the urban core, university campuses, and the Medical Center area.
Even though Blue Duck's scooter fleet remains demonstrably smaller than its deep-pocketed competitors, Bell said Wednesday's announcement was about "making a statement."
"Today was about putting the tech community on notice that we're real and we're here to stay, and we're building a company that's competitive in a meaningful way with some of the biggest startups in the modern world," he said.