The Codcast: Uber, Lyft expanding to bikes, scooters

Uber and Lyft are expanding their vision of ride-sharing to include not just cars but bicycles, electric bicycles, and electric scooters.

Uber jumped in first, adding the electric bikeshare company Jump to its app earlier this year in San Francisco and then acquiring the company outright in March for an estimated $100 million.

Lyft earlier this month bought Motivate, the nation’s largest bikeshare company, with operations in such cities as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The value of the deal was estimated at $250 million.

And California-based Lime announced recently that its bikes and scooters would also begin appearing on the Uber app and that several investors, including Uber, Fidelity, and Alphabet, the parent of Google, had invested $335 million in the company. The investment suggested the company is now valued at more than $1 billion.

“Our investment and partnership in Lime is another step towards our vision of becoming a one-stop shop for all your transportation needs,” said Rachel Holt, an Uber vice president.

Lime is a dockless bike-sharing company that operates in 16 states and the District of Columbia. In Massachusetts, the company is in 15 communities, including Arlington, Belmont, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Milton, Needham, Newton, Waltham, and Watertown.

Scott Mullen, Lime’s director of expansion in the northeast, joined Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters on the Codcast to talk about the business. He said 40 percent of trips connect riders to transit, while 28 percent start or end at local retail stores.

“We’re all about first and last mile,” Mullen said, referring to the use of bicycles and scooters to connect with transit. “We need to capture any trip that’s three miles or less that could be taken by car.”

Sometimes, however, bikes are good for the entire trip when public transit is not available. He said Lime has noticed that many bikes in Malden are ridden into Chelsea at around midnight and then return to Malden the next morning, suggesting they are being used by people commuting to work.

Electric scooters are Lime’s most popular offering in terms of frequency of use. Mullen said the average electric scooter is rented a dozen times a day, while electric bikes are typically rented five times a day  and regular bikes two times. The electric scooters have a throttle, a brake, and a battery indicator. Their  top speed is 14.8 miles an hour and their range is 37 miles. They cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents for each minute of usage, or about $2.50 for 10 minutes.

Lime is working on a system to swap out scooter batteries at night, but currently the company has to round up the scooters every night to take them in for charging. It often hires juicers, individuals who round up scooters, charge them overnight at their homes, and return them to a designated location in the morning.

Bird, another California-based electric scooter company, launched in Somerville and Cambridge on Friday with an almost identical business approach. The company, however, didn’t tell officials in the two municipalities it was launching and caught them off-guard.

Mullen said he thinks the bike and scooter-sharing business is shifting toward dockless systems because the cost to launch them is much less. He said it costs $50,000 to install a bike docking station like the ones used by Motivate’s Blue Bikes in Boston. He noted Seattle dropped its vendor, Pronto, in March 2017 and signed on with three dockless bike-sharing companies, one of which was Lime. Seattle now has 8,000 bikes deployed around the city, he said.

Lime doesn’t require any municipal investment, Mullen said, although he views the relationship between the company and the host town as a partnership. He said municipalities working with bike-sharing companies have to invest in infrastructure improvements to make the system work.

Mullen said he views scooters as the Trojan horse of his business. He says scooters have no political baggage and they are a fun way to introduce people to the sharing concept.

“Who’s against scooters?” he asked.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

No fewer than 10 House-Senate conference committees are trying to iron out difference between versions of bills with only 10 days left in the Legislature’s two-year session. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded $25 million in disaster grants to five Massachusetts counties for cleanup following the March blizzards. (Gloucester Times)

Boston has significantly stepped up the issuing of parking tickets following hikes in the fines for violations. (Boston Herald)

North Andover selectmen voted to celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day” on the second Monday of October, alongside Columbus Day. (Eagle Tribune)

Local EMTs and firefighters are increasingly being outfitted with bullet-proof vests and helmets for when they respond to hostile situations or mass casualty incidents. (MetroWest Daily News)

The 2019 state budget includes $166 million in local aid to Lynn, a $9 million increase over last year. (The Item)

An advocacy group is calling on blacks to boycott Boston’s Faneuil Hall to protest the city’s unwillingness to rename the iconic structure, named after a colonial businessman who owned slaves. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Declassified documents released over the weekend about surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide show Republican claims about the FBI and the Justice Department manipulating the secret court system were misleading or false. (New York Times)

President Trump tweeted out a late-night warning to Iran to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN,” saying if its president continues to spout saber-rattling, the country will “SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

It’s the question that comes up over and over in the congressional primary race between liberal incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano and liberal challenger Ayanna Pressley: What’s the difference between them? (Boston Globe)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew more than 1,000 people to a town hall meeting in Great Barrington, where she said “We have to keep pushing back” against Trump. (Berkshire Eagle)

John Bradley, a former Plymouth County prosecutor who settled his suit against District Attorney Timothy Cruz charging the longtime DA fired him for not contributing to his campaign, is running a sticker campaign for the Democratic primary to challenge his old boss after the State Ballot Law Commission kicked him off as an independent over a dispute over his residency. (The Enterprise)

Democrats around the country are looking at attorneys general races to flip at least three offices from red to blue and gain a majority of the posts of states’ top law enforcement officers. (U.S. News & World Report)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Farmers markets around Massachusetts are scrambling to find alternatives to processing EBT payments from food stamp recipients as the company that handles the transactions from vendors through mobile apps announced it would close its platform. (Standard-Times)

A story in the Boston Globe on Friday said shore prices for lobsters have plummeted because of the US tariffs, hitting local lobstermen, while the Associated Press says lobster prices remain strong as the high-demand season hits.

The closure of several high-profile stores on the North Shore, where the retail industry once had the most jobs in the region, has triggered hundreds of layoffs and indicated a softening of the retail sector despite a strong economy. (Salem News)

The owner of the former Quincy Medical Center property is set to unveil plans for a residential development on the nearly 15-acre site. (Patriot Ledger)

The Federal Trade Commission says dozens of fake veterans’ charities have preyed on patriotic sentiment and collected millions from donors but officials at the nonprofits pocketed most of the money. (USA Today)

TRANSPORTATION

Ari Ofsevit, of TransitMatters, says the proposed route for South Coast commuter rail is off track, and urges planners to consider a route that goes through Mansfield and utilizes the median strip of Interstate 495. (CommonWealth)

MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez answered questions from frustrated riders submitted by email and Twitter on everything from station cleanliness (he said it was the first thing he noticed when he took over) to why T officials don’t ride the system (he says they all are required to) during a sit-down with Keller@Large.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

William Moomaw, an emeritus professor of environment policy at Tufts, and Jesse Mermell, president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, urge the Legislature to agree on a measure to impose prices on carbon emissions. (CommonWealth)

Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, defends the organization’s aggressive moves, including litigation, to protect Boston waterfront areas from development that CLF says does not provide adequate public access to the the harbor. (CommonWealth)

A little-noticed provision of a defense bill would remove the agency charged with oversight of the nation’s nuclear weapons from under control of the Department of Energy and make it an independent agency. (Associated Press)

CASINOS

The mayors of Brockton and Taunton have hired lobbyists to battle it out over a bill before Congress that would recognize tribal land in Taunton and allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to build its planned casino. (The Enterprise)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans will announce his retirement today. He reportedly will become chief of public safety at Boston College. (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker said he will sign legislation raising fees on car rentals to fund police training, and he renewed his call for death penalty for cop killers. (Boston Herald)

A Herald editorial decries as too light a 5 to 7 year sentence given to a Lowell man convicted of raping to 14-year-old girls.

MEDIA

Is Sacha Baron Cohen the left’s answer to conservative provocateur James O’Keefe? (New York Times)