Lime has expanded its San Francisco fleet to 2,000 e-scooters, after it was granted permission from The City to take over the permit of a former competitor it purchased for $170 million in May.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees the Powered Scooter Program that manages which companies operate in The City and at what scale, approved the permit purchase on Nov. 19, allowing Lime to double its fleet size and become the largest e-scooter brand in The City.
The first wave of the 1,000 new e-scooters were rolled out over the weekend, and Lime reports an increased number of rides, though it doesn’t yet have fully analyzed data.
“As a local company, we understand that getting around has been a bit more challenging these days, especially given the need to maintain a safe distance from others, said EV Ellington, California general manager for Lime, in a statement. “We hope that with more scooters on the ground, we can help make life easier for those looking to make short trips sustainably and in the open air.”
Under the original one-year program launched last October, four companies were given the coveted permit. Each was allotted 1,000 vehicles to be deployed throughout The City, assuming they met a number of equity, safety and accessibility requirements, with the opportunity to eventually expand to 2,500 should they consistently meet agency standards.
Those original four companies were Scoot, Spin, Lime and JUMP.
However Lime purchased Uber-owned JUMP earlier this year; the recent decision from the SFMTA allows it to take over the scale and responsibilities of its former rival’s permit.
At a time when many San Francisco residents are struggling with Muni service cuts, Lime is positioning itself as a mobility solution that will provide “safe, affordable and sustainable” travel for those who can’t access public transit or find other modes of travel unappealing or inaccessible.
For its part, San Francisco’s transit agency is leaning into the public-private partnership.
In August, the SFMTA Board approved a six-month extension of the four ongoing permits, allowing them to continue through April 15, 2021 with only minor modifications such as more equitable distribution and parking device requirements.
SFMTA allowed Spin, another local e-scooter company with permission to operate in San Francisco, to expand its fleet by 50 percent in September, and described the growth of scooter programs as an important tool to fill “transportation gaps” left behind by the wake of Muni route reduction.
Most e-scooters were taken off the streets at the start of the pandemic, but as they’ve slowly come back online, they’ve proven useful for residents making shorter trips within their own neighborhoods.
Ridership data from Lime shows more people are starting scooter trips from residential neighborhoods such as the Mission, the Tenderloin, the Castro and Hayes Valley. Meanwhile, trips originating from traditional corporate corridors such as the Financial District and South of Market have dropped by more than 5 percent as compared to November 2019.
E-scooter companies have come under fire in years past for failing to equitably distribute their devices in neighborhoods that might actually be in the most need of mobility solutions, regulate rider behavior or enforce key rules such as safety or parking.
The Powered Scooter Program has given SFMTA more control over enforcement, but it’s also allowed them to use a heavier hand when working with companies on where their scooters will be distributed.
Lime said it will expand to the Richmond and the Sunset neighborhoods, where they haven’t previously been.
It will also ramp up the hardware available across other areas identified by the SFMTA as “key neighborhoods” including the Mission, Bayview-Hunters Point and Western Addition.