Feelin' the squeeze
It came as a surprise to many when Lime announced on January 9 that it is pulling out of the San Antonio market. Decreased ridership and higher fees led to what Lime CEO Brad Bao called a “difficult decision" to leave the Alamo City and other markets.
“We are immensely grateful for the partnerships we’ve enjoyed with each one of these cities and the continued support from our riders, and we remain hopeful we can reintroduce Lime back into these communities when the time is right,” Bao said in a release.
Last month, San Antonio City Council passed a scooter ordinance that allowed a trio of selected companies — specifically Lime, Bird and Razor — to operate dockless scooters in the downtown area via three exclusive contracts effective on January 12. The vote limited the number of scooters to between 3,000 and 5,000. Though it originally came with a nighttime ban, that was later removed from the proposal, allowing people to ride at all times of the day.
In a statement, also released on January 9, the City of San Antonio said it would continue contract negotiations with Bird and Razor to operate dockless vehicles downtown. Each e-scooter company has a permit capped at 1,000 scooters per vendor, which means there are currently 2,000 permitted dockless vehicles in the downtown area.
City staff says it will closely monitor the dockless vehicle market to determine whether additional scooters or companies will be needed to meet the needs of the community. It's worth noting that the current two-year contracts can be modified with city council approval.
"Lime’s decision to leave the San Antonio market should not deter or distract us from continuing to move forward with our contracts with Bird and Razor," District 4 Councilwoman Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia tells CultureMap. "As technological innovations continuously change, we remain committed to learning more about opportunities to expand [transportation] options.”
In addition to scooters, Lime is also moving the 17,000 square-foot regional repair center it opened last year from its Wetmore Road location to Austin along with the 50 new mechanical and operation jobs that came with new facility.
“I was disappointed when I learned about Lime’s decision to leave San Antonio,” said District 6 Councilmember Melissa Cabello Havrda. “This is the second scooter company that’s left San Antonio in less than two months after city employees went through such a thorough selection process to award them a contract. I find this disconcerting because we selected these companies over others who may have been more committed to staying here."
"It’s unfair to the taxpayers of San Antonio who expect companies bidding for these lucrative contracts to operate in good faith,” she added.
As for Lime, the company's dockless bikes and scooters will no longer be available to rent in the next few days. Customers with remaining funds in their account can be refunded, or can use the credit in the cities where Lime operates. In addition to San Antonio, the San Francisco-based company will also withdraw from San Diego, Atlanta, and Phoenix and eight markets in other international cities.
With the original three contracts set to begin on Monday, the City’s scooter fleet was set to be reduced from over 5,000 to 3,000 and the number of companies from seven to three.
“These market closures have an effect not just on riders, but on our whole Lime community,” Bao continued in the company’s statement. “To our full-time and temporary employees and our Juicers, many of whom have been with us every step of the way — thank you. We know that this decision impacts your lives and families and we’re grateful for your role in helping us make Lime what it is today." Bao then added that Lime was shifting its “primary focus to profitability.”