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San Antonio Staff Recommend 3 Scooter Companies To Council, Say Bye Bye Bird(ie)

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
A young man rides a Lime scooter on San Antonio sidewalks downtown. Lime was one of the companies recommended for an exclusive contract.

San Antonio City staff recommended three companies be given exclusive licenses to operate scooter rentals.  Lime, Razor Scooter and Lyft may be given the exclusive rights to operate in San Antonio if council approves the choices. 

"Negotiations are underway and staff will make a final recommendation at the B-Session," said a notice posted on the city's website referring to the Nov. 13 council hearing.

The new contracts also will require the total number of scooters in San Antonio remain below 5,000. City staff say the measures help them more effectively  address community concerns on how scooters are ridden and where they are left. 

According to the city's website, the city would develop a new parking framework with companies. 

"The intention is to identify methods for creating a more orderly environment and ensuring a clear walk path for pedestrians," said the notice.

Related | San Antonio Bans Scooters From Sidewalks Starting July 1

Not all council people were convinced the measure would be enough when it was presented to council in May. 

“I still think 5,000 is too much,” said Manny Pelaez at that time, councilman for the northwest side. “I fear that 5,000 might look like exactly what it looks like right now.”

During the pilot program the city ran from October to May, there were an average of 5,662 scooters deployed on San Antonio streets.

Only one police officer working a three-hour shift was responsible for ensuring scooter riders followed the rules of the road. 

Related | More Than 5,000 Scooters, One Cop On A 3-Hour Shift Was Enforcement In San Antonio

Several scooter companies have expressed support for the plan that would see competition limited, since currently few if any make a profit in San Antonio. 

Six other companies failed to secure licenses. Those already operating in the city including Bird, one of the largest in the country, will be forced to remove their scooters from city streets if council votes to approve the contracts in coming weeks. 

City staff have said it would be at least a month after any vote before the six other companies would be expected to vacate the city. 

The three companies selected are major players in the field — Lime is valued at more than $2 billion. This fact may rile some critics of limiting the companies to three as the hope by some was that the number would allow for a smaller more innovative operator to enter the fray.

The city graded the companies on six areas with most of the points under a combination of “Experience, Qualifications and Financial Capacity” and “Quality of Proposal.”

“Economic Terms” — where companies were encouraged to pitch ways they could give the city additional money in profit sharing — made up only 5% of the score.

The city would not make company applications for the licenses public. TPR, Rivard Report and the Express-News sought the details on behalf of the public, but the city as well as the companies themselves fought to keep the information private ahead of awarding the contracts. The Texas Attorney General agreed with the city.  It is unclear if the documents will be made public after today’s announcement. The companies maintain it would damage their “Trade Secrets.”

Council is expected to vote on the measure Dec. 12.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org