Holy s***! Lyft acquires bike share operator Motivate + other bike sharing news
Lyft buys Motivate. When I discuss in job interviews my sojourn in trying to sell bike share systems, I make the point that we produced good proposals and had a lot of great ideas about marketing and making bike share a true membership kind of program, but that we were undercapitalized and therefore unable to compete in the marketplace -- we didn't have money to subsidize systems, or enough staff, a demonstration system to be able to truck around and show, etc.
Yesterday, it was announced that Lyft, the venture capital supported ride hailing business, has acquired Motivate, the company funded by large firms ("Love Citi Bike? You Have A Real Estate Developer To Thank," Fast Company; "Citi Bike's complicated ownership structure masks a brilliant business strategy," Ross Garlick blog; "Meet Bike Sharing's Mystery Money Man Jonathan Schulhof," The Active Times) to take over the bike share firm that had originally been created by Alta, the bike planning and consulting firm.
From the Washington Post article, "Lyft gets into bike-share business, acquiring operator of Capital Bikeshare and Citi Bike":
The ride-hailing company acquired Motivate, the operator of Capital Bikeshare and New York’s Citi Bike, among other bikeshare services, in a deal believed to be valued at least $250 million. The company will introduce “Lyft Bikes,” seizing on the momentum around dockless and pedal-assist e-bikes in major U.S. cities, and inject resources into the bikeshare operator to expand those offerings around the country.That puts undercapitalization in perspective...
(Alta was undercapitalized too, comparatively speaking. And Motivate probably recognizes that there isn't a whole lotta profit in bike share and better to sell it to a company that has non-market reasons to pay a lot of money for a bike share system.)
2. Participating in multiple segments of the market for mobility services. In 2016, Ford took over sponsorship of bike sharing in the San Francisco Bay region, which I argued was a branding exercise to promote the company to IT types as a place to work ("Ford Motor Company as a transportation company not a "car" company: bike share and small scale transit"),
More recently, Uber purchased Jump, the dockless e-bike system.
I guess from the standpoint of "mobility as a system/transportation as a system" (MaaS/TaaS) the companies see a need to be present in more segments of "the Sustainable Mobility Platform" ("Further updates to Sustainable Mobility Platform Approach).
3. Mobility as a system ("integrating payment systems in the Sustainable Mobility Platform")/Sustainable Mobility Platform. Charlie and I have been discussing this in various comment threads.
Some people don't want to construct their MaaS platform themselves, they want it to be constructed for them. But you pay a big premium for it.
But the average sustainable mobility consuming resident of DC has three or four payment systems already that they use frequently: e.g. a stored value transit fare card; membership in a one-way car share program, membership in a two-way car share program, maybe a bike share membership. Some people have the Uber and/or Lyft apps. Or Via.
Various entities think they'll be able to make a lot of money stitching all those services into one app. ("MaaS app Whim 'to cover 60 countries in next five years'," ITS International). Personally, I don't think that's an absolute necessity, especially when it means premium pricing.
In fact, DC is probably a leader in MaaS as it is, it's just that the industry hasn't realized it.
-- walking and biking as "free" services
-- dock-based bike share
-- dockless bike share and e-scooters
-- one way car share
-- two way car share
-- shared taxi services (Via, DC's own system)
-- ride hailing apps
4. Dockless bike share experiencing high rate of vandalism and theft. Speaking of dockless bike sharing, the Post has an article about the high rates of vandalism and theft in DC ("Theft and destruction of dockless bikes a growing problem"). (And we have also seen e-scooters with tracking devices ripped out.)
What surprises me is the surprise.
First there is the experience in Asia, although there the issue is less vandalism and more about abandonment ("Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to arrogance," Guardian).
Second is why dock-based systems were invented in the first place--because of vandalism and theft in response to the earlier versions of non-dock based bike share starting in Amsterdam ("From Amsterdam to Beijing: The Global Evolution of Bike Share," Smart Cities Dive).
Which reminds me that I forgot I was tangentially involved in a such an attempt in Ann Arbor c. 1984, and yes, the bikes were stolen or vandalized and "the system" stopped operating.