Lyft Scooters to Leave City; Bird Back in Picture for Final Scooter Slot

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Charger John Cradoct, an employee with a company called Blue Crew loads Lyft scooters into a company van along Commerce Street.

The scooter arm of rideshare giant Lyft is gearing up for nationwide contraction, and San Antonio will be part of the mass exodus, Lyft has confirmed. In its place, the City will negotiate a contract with Bird, the City announced.

The company said in a statement it is focusing its resources elsewhere.

“We’re grateful to our scooter riders in San Antonio as well as our partners in San Antonio city government,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “We’re shifting resources and will be ending scooter operations on November 22. We look forward to continuing to provide riders with other modes of reliable transportation.”

Lyft is one of three firms the City recommended to receive exclusive rights to operate rentable, electric scooters in the city limits. Lime and Razor are the two other firms the City has entered into contract negotiations with to define the parameters of the scooter-share program moving forward, which include revenue sharing, fees, and contributions to scooter parking infrastructure.

Bird, arguably San Antonio’s most popular scooter-share brand, found itself on the outside looking in this week as City staff left the Santa Monica-based company off of the shortlist recommended to Council to receive a contract. But on Friday, a day after Lyft announced its impending departure, the City announced its contract negotiations would include Bird, which scored fourth in the City’s review of bids, after Lyft, Lime, and Razor, respectively.

“Bird is a committed member of the San Antonio community, and we are grateful to residents, community groups, and local businesses that have embraced us and supported shared e-scooters,” said Blanca Laborde, Bird’s senior manager of government partnerships. “While we were disappointed by the initial recommendation from City staff, we understand that the process is ongoing and the decision is not yet final. … We look forward to being in San Antonio for the remaining months of the [City’s] pilot [program for dockless scooters] and hope to be here for years to come.”

The City’s scooter program has been in a trial mode since October 2018, months after Bird and Lime released its scooters in downtown San Antonio. As many as seven companies and 16,100 vehicles were authorized at the peak of the scooter craze. But the City began to tighten its regulations after an initial laissez-faire approach.

“As part of a corporate shift in its operations, Lyft has withdrawn its proposal to operate dockless vehicles in San Antonio,” Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said in a statement. “Staff will proceed with the negotiations with Lime and Razor and will revise the recommendation to City Council which may or may not replace Lyft. Staff will communicate the revised recommendation prior to placing it on the December 12, 2019, City Council meeting agenda.”

The recommendation will formally be presented at City Council’s Dec. 12 meeting, where Council is slated to vote on whether to approve the contracts.

In an evaluation by a committee composed of City staff, a police department captain, members of the downtown community, and other groups, scooter companies’ proposals were ranked based on their quality and the experience of the firms presenting them, among other criteria. Lyft received the highest overall rating, scoring 66 out of a possible 100 points. Bird, which the committee initially ranked first based on its written proposal, fell to fourth after interviews. Spin, a Ford-owned scooter startup, ranked fifth.

San Antonio was one of six e-scooter markets Lyft decided to leave on Thursday. Dallas, Columbus, Nashville, Phoenix, and Atlanta were the other casualties. Lyft scooters will remain in Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., among other cities.

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