With several weeks left in the city’s extended dockless transit pilot program, Santa Monica-based vendor Bird has roughly doubled its rate for riders in Baltimore.
Previously $0.15 per minute, with a standard $1 fee to start, Bird has now raised its rate to $0.29 per minute, the app shows.
In an email sent to Baltimore Fishbowl Tuesday afternoon, a Bird spokesperson said, “Similar to ride-hailing, big macs, and cups of coffee, our pricing now varies by city.” Prices now range from $0.10 to $0.33 per minute, the company said, albeit without explaining why.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation said the agency was “unaware” of the change, and referred to it as “a test of dynamic pricing in Baltimore.”
“We are nearing the end of our Dockless Pilot Program, and remain committed to providing affordable, equitable and accessible transportation solutions,” DOT said. The statement noted other vendors’ prices have remained static, “so with multiple service providers, the public can select the appropriate dockless vehicle based on price, availability, or any other factors.”
Bikemore policy director Jed Weeks and local commuter extraordinaire (and Baltimore Fishbowl contributor) Brian Seel shared word of the increase on Sunday.
I guess @BirdRide just doubled their prices here in Baltimore. Without announcement.
This is what private transportation looks like. pic.twitter.com/XSYbglZGZ7
— Brian Seel (@cylussec) April 7, 2019
Bird is now double the price of Lime and Spin in Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/QsYcsBsn8J
— Jed Weeks (@jedweeks) April 7, 2019
As Weeks and DOT noted, the rate remains $0.15 per minute for competitors Lime and Spin.
Bird became the, erm, early bird, among scooter vendors to arrive in Baltimore in June of 2018 when the company dropped off a fleet overnight in the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. Lime followed, and the city launched its pilot program with both firms just as its more formal dock-based bike share program crumbled into pieces last summer.
Both Bird and Lime paid the city $15,000 up front plus a $1 per vehicle per day, with caps on 1,000 of each type of vehicle (i.e. 1,000 scooters for Bird, 1,000 scooters and 1,000 bikes allowed for Lime).
The scooters are now ubiquitous, and have proven popular across racial and geographic lines in the city.
Other companies have also joined the fold with the pilot program still in effect. DOT welcomed in SPIN scooters and Jump bicycles in February and extended the pilot program through April 30, an announcement that a Bird spokesperson said the company was “thrilled” about.
“Bird hopes to remain a close partner to city officials and staff as they contemplate the long-term future of e-scooters for Baltimore,” the company said in a statement to Baltimore Fishbowl on Feb. 27.
Lawmakers and DOT have already drawn up preliminary rules for where and how scooters and dockless bikes can be used around the city—with no jail time for illicit use, fortunately—and the city council gave them preliminary approval last month.
At a March council committee hearing about Baltimore’s proposed regulations, Bird’s senior manager of government affairs, Cameron Kilburg, asked lawmakers not to penalize companies for leaving scooters out after dark, and that the city impose a tax of $0.05 per ride instead of $0.10, among other changes. As originally written, the bill required firms to remove any vehicles from dusk to dawn.
Lawmakers have since amended the legislation to let the director of DOT determine the hours when companies must remove scooters and bikes from sidewalks and streets, but are sticking with the planned excise of $0.10 per ride. The Department of Finance has estimated the city can bring in more than $1 million annually from a regulated dockless scooter and bike program, including $159,000 from ride taxes alone.
Scooter riders in Detroit also found Bird had hiked rates this weekend, from $0.15 an hour to $0.31.
In an earlier case from Raleigh, North Carolina, The News and Observer reported in January that the firm tacked on a $2 transportation fee per ride, on top of the $1 start fees and $0.15 per minute per ride. The changes came after city lawmakers approved regulations restricting when and where scooters could be parked and ridden, with a $300-per-scooter fee and 500-scooter limit for companies. Bird reportedly urged those who didn’t like the extra fees to voice their displeasure to the Raleigh City Council.
Late last month, both Bird and competitor Lime announced they’d be pulling out of Raleigh, citing “burdensome” and “onerous” regulations. Five other dockless transit firms have applied to replace them.
Baltimore hasn’t imposed nearly as stringent a cap, with a planned limit of 12,000 vehicles of each type–scooters, regular bikes and e-bikes–allowed in the city.
More than 191,000 riders used dockless transit to travel 828,761 miles in total around Baltimore from mid-August of 2018 through January of this year, according to a pilot program evaluation report published by DOT last month.
This story has been updated.
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