Sources say the Portland Bureau of Transportation has ended bike share contract negotiations with Lyft and is now jumping on board with Uber.
PBOT sought bidders for a major bike share system expansion last fall and opted to stay with Lyft, the company that owns Biketown operator Motivate Inc. Portland’s current contract with Lyft ended in April and PBOT had been negotiating an extension of that agreement since December. As The Oregonian reported in January, the plan was to stay with Lyft and complete a seamless transition to a larger service area and launch an all-electric bike share fleet this summer.
That plan appears to have shifted.
“The city has decided to go with Uber due to financial reasons in the contract negotiations,” our source said. Uber owns Jump, and is a major Lyft competitor. Our source was also told at a meeting this morning that all 16 Portland-based employees will be let go. The source added that employees have been told PBOT now plans to launch with Uber/Jump on July 1st.
PBOT declined to mention either company when asked for a response to the news this morning. “The City is still engaged in the contractor selection process of the bike share RFP,” they said in a statement. “When [the contractor] is announced, it will be followed by a seven-day protest period. After that, it will take some time to negotiate the resulting contract.”
As for the July 1st launch date (that we’ve heard from two different sources close to Lyft/Motivate), PBOT said, “Given where we are in the process, and the state of affairs with the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be premature to talk about a specific launch date.”
It’s unclear what led to the breakdown in negotiations between PBOT and Lyft/Motivate, but it appears to have happened just a few days ago. Another bike share industry source we spoke to this morning confirmed that Lyft/Motivate was “pushing back on contract terms” and PBOT eventually walked away. Employee unionization and related costs could be the issue. Motivate employees are members of Transport Workers Union of America and Uber is very resistant to unionized labor and prefers to treat workers as “independent contractors” for financial and liability reasons. PBOT is also loathe to work with Uber, given their infamous political history in Portland.
In recent months Uber has said they want to “double-down on micromobility” and as recently as this week the company was in talks to spend $170 million to purchase bike and scooter share company Lime.
PBOT and Jump are very familiar with each other. The bikes used in our Biketown system were made by Social Bicycles, which was re-branded as Jump before it was bought by Uber. (But our system is run by Lyft/Motivate. Yes it’s confusing!). PBOT officials also got a real-life test of Jump bikes in June 2018 when the company deployed a few of them to help people commute during a closure of the Portland Aerial Tram.
When PBOT sought a vendor for our system expansion, Lyft and Jump were the only two respondents. This means PBOT can negotiate a contract with Jump without issuing another request for proposals (RFP).
According to PBOT’s RFP, Jump will have to, “dramatically expand the system and incorporate electric pedal-assist bicycles (“e-bikes”) as a major or sole bicycle type within the system fleet” and their system will have to be, “accessible to the majority of Portlanders and serve as a major vehicle of change to help Portland address climate disruption and transportation inequities.”
The negotiations are complicated and are very fluid. We hope to share more details as soon as possible.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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