Scooter startups in San Francisco might get knocked over by a much more powerful competitor. Rideshare giant Lyft has reportedly hired consultants to work with local transportation officials to acquire permits and drop their own battalion of app-powered electric scooters across San Francisco, according to a new report from tech news site The Information.
SF Weekly has not confirmed this report from The Information, but the SF Examiner has just confirmed the content of the emails.
“A local consulting firm representing Lyft approached San Francisco transportation officials in recent weeks about applying for permits, according to emails obtained under public records requests,” writes Cory Weinberg in The Information. “Lyft has been developing prototypes of potential scooter designs, a person familiar with the matter said, although the effort is in its early stages.”
Notice how Lyft is working with “a local consulting firm” to schmooze “San Francisco transportation officials.” That is the exact opposite approach than the path chosen by current scooter kingpins Lime, Bird, and Spin, who simply dumped thousands of unpermitted scooters on sidewalks much to the dismay of City Hall and the Department of Public Works.
Lyft’s use of high-priced consultants to sweet talk City Hall officials might pay big dividends when SFMTA decides on permanent scooter rules. The agency is currently working on a one-year pilot program that will allow five companies to place up to 1,250 scooters total across the city.
Those five companies are not yet determined. Don’t be surprised if Lyft comes out of the blue to become one of them, and has a leg up on the competition when permanent San Francisco scooter permits are granted in 2019.
Update: This post has been updated with additional reporting from the SF Examiner. A previous version of this article had stated the reporting was not independently confirmed, SF Weekly apologizes to its readers and to The Information for the error.