Dockless bikeshares are great for getting around Seattle but they also seem to be effective tools for illustrating economic theory.
When we replaced our failing publicly-supported docked bike shares with the yellow, orange, and green bicycles of private companies, services became cheaper and used more widely.
Riders took more trips in their first three months of private operations than the city-funded program carried in its entire 2.5 year life, according to SDOT data reported by the Seattle Bike Blog. Perhaps this was the private industry showing its superior efficiency over public programs?*
Well, if private business is more efficient at providing services then they are also more efficient at demanding more money for those services. Just two weeks after Lime Bike's last competitor left town they are now raising their rates.
On Monday, Lime Bike increased its rates from $1 to unlock and ride for 30 minutes to $1 to unlock and then $.05 per minute of riding time, which works out to $1 to unlock and $1.50 to ride for 30 minutes. The pricing for electric bikes remains the same at $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute of riding, according to Katherine Mackinnon, a PR representative that works for Lime Bike.
Mackinnon said the pricing increase was for "most markets" but she wasn't able to tell me which other markets are affected. Mackinnon did, however, point me to a really cool Lime Bike program called Lime Access that I was unaware of. Anyone that can "demonstrate eligibility or participation in any state or federally-run assistance program," can get a 95 percent discount on all pedal bikes and a 50 percent discount on the electric bikes. Take advantage of that. Because Lime Bike just got more expensive.
*I am of course not comparing completely identical situations—the city's program was fundamentally different from the private programs because the bikes were docked to specific stations which were far less convenient than the dockless situation. So do not take this sentence to indicate that I think private business is universally better at providing services than the government. MEDICARE FOR ALL.