Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Uber’s e-scooter and e-bike subsidiary Jump is leaving town by the end of the week, a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
“We are winding down our Jump operations in San Antonio,” spokesman Travis Considine said. “We will maintain an open dialogue with the City on how we can continue working together to expand transportation options and are grateful for their dedication.”
The City is paring down the authorized number of e-scooters and e-bikes that have taken hold, largely in the urban core, as an alternative mode of transportation.
In response to an increasing number of complaints charging the scooters clutter the sidewalks and endanger pedestrians, City Council last month reduced the permitted number of dockless, electric vehicles from 16,100 to 8,850. Once their permits expire by early July, the measure will slash in half the fleets of authorized operators with more than 1,000 scooters and e-bikes. Uber’s departure will leave the City with six e-scooter operators and 6,850 authorized vehicles.
Jump, which first arrived in San Antonio in January, was the first dockless operator to provide rentable electric bikes. Some preferred the bikes over scooters because they provide a sturdier ride traversing bumpier roads. On June 30, scooterists will be barred from riding on the sidewalk, per City ordinance.
John Jacks, whose Center City Development Operations department runs the City’s dockless vehicle program, said Uber reached out on Monday to inform the City of its impending exit. Rideshare services, however, are unaffected by the withdrawal of Uber’s dockless vehicles.
“All they told us was that it was not related to the [ongoing government bidding] process,” which began on Friday when the City solicited three vendors to continue its dockless vehicle program, but this time with only 5,000 authorized scooters and e-bikes. “But it was just the best business decision for them at this point,” Jacks said.
Uber did not provide media with an official reason for its departure, but it is unlikely the company will be submitting a bid for one of three government contracts to operate in the city beyond September, said David Heard, who leads local high-tech trade organization Tech Bloc, of which Uber is a member.
“I don’t believe they’re submitting a bid for the [City’s request for proposals],” said Heard, who later qualified he is highly certain Uber will not bid for a City contract by the July 22 deadline but added the company could bring its electric vehicle fleet back to the City in the future.
“No doors are closed,” he said. “They could easily end up back in San Antonio. … This is just a business decision at this point.”
That corporate decision involves moving its fleet to markets that make sense from a financial perspective, he added. Heard spoke with an Austin-based government relations official for Uber by phone Wednesday morning about the decision.
According to Tony Abate, a mechanic who worked in San Antonio for the dockless transportation provider, Uber has also pulled its electric vehicles from Dallas.
“The cat’s out of the bag,” Abate said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “I’m sure the haters are happy, but me [sic] and 75 of my co-workers are out of a job. Whatever you think of dockless vehicles this is going to have a negative impact for the transportation options in the city.”
Unlike early dockless vehicle companies Bird and Lime, Uber and several other local operators have opted not to use contractors to collect scooters and e-bikes at night for regular battery charging. Instead, the companies hired employees – in Uber’s case as many as 75 were apparently employed by the company to charge, collect, distribute, and maintain the vehicles.
“Pretty bummed that it didn’t even last six months,” Abate said in a Facebook message.
Photo Editor Scott Ball contributed to this article.