The city of Boise has picked Lime as its sole contracted e-scooter and e-bike provider.
Last fall, the city said it wanted to operate in partnership with one scooter company rather than three. The city solicited proposals from multiple e-ride providers and narrowed that list down to Lime, Bird, and Spin. All are licensed operators with the city of Boise. This means these companies were required to follow an ordinance set by the city council in 2018.
A committee that includes various representatives of the city and partners ranked Lime first, Spin second, and Bird third. Some items the committee evaluated included parking, safety and education, and financial relationship with the city and fee structure.
After Lime won the bid, Bird appealed to Boise City Council. The scooter company argued that the city didn’t score the proposals properly, and that Lime’s proposal contained “empty promises and exaggerated performance commitments” and was missing specifics.
Lime’s final score was 139.2 compared to Bird’s 133.5. When staff discussed the criteria, they highlighted a few areas where they believed Lime outperformed Bird. These included Bird not specifying the number of employees it would have in its Boise program, Lime’s lower price per minute, and Lime’s low-income access commitment.
“A big piece of what was evaluated in this section was fair pricing, transparency, and affordability for the community,” Tessa Greegor, the city’s mobility and public spaces manager, said. “Bird presented a… range of 39 cents to 45 cents per minute for all devices. Lime committed to 36 cents per minute with the adaptive fleet being free-for-all users. With this price difference, a 30-minute ride could cost a user almost $3 more. Further, we were impressed by Lime’s commitment to low-income access programs and the pricing structure.”
Lime and Bird respond
T.J. Birkel, Bird’s senior manager of government partnerships, told the council the e-ride company was shocked by the city’s decision and said they thought errors had been made.
“Again and again, we have heard from city staff and community stakeholders that Bird offers the best service, (is) the most responsive to city requests, and is the most engaged in the community,” Birkel said. “That’s why we were so shocked not to be selected for the upcoming program and why we’re fighting so hard to continue serving Boise.”
“We believe Boise would be better served with multiple micro-mobility operators,” Birkel said. “We are not asking this body to choose Bird over Lime. We are simply asking you to allow Bird to continue serving the city.”
Bird made the point that the city would be served better with multiple providers several times. Toward the meeting’s end, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean asked sharply if Bird would be standing in front of the council, claiming the city needed multiple providers if it had won the bid.
Jason Orr, Bird’s Corporate Council answered, saying, “Probably not to be honest with you.” McLean cut him off after this statement with a quick “nope, that’s good.”
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Even after McLean said she’d heard enough, Orr continued with his explanation.
“The RFP anticipated having an exclusive operator. We submitted a proposal that anticipated that we would be the exclusive operator, and I think if Bird were chosen as the exclusive operator, we might do a better job at it,” Orr said. “Given our experience and kind of living up to our commitments in this community, it was probably a lower-risk option to choose Bird. If you’re going to do an exclusive. So no, I doubt we’d be in your office saying if we had won exclusive, you should have two. But that wasn’t my decision.”
Council member Patrick Bageant pushed Bird to explain why it claims some of Lime’s promises were “misleading” or “overblown.”
“Lime announced their partnership with the Boise Women’s and Children’s Alliance in late December, two weeks after the RFP had been released,” Michael Covato Bird’s director of government partnerships said. “We would suggest that’s pretty opportunistic. Conversely… one example is we’ve been a multi-year sponsor of Boise Pride. So I think what we would suggest is our commitment and investment in the community goes back much deeper than just when convenient for a competitive RFP.”
Lime’s Manager of Community and Government Affairs Hayden Harvey spoke to the council about the company’s commitment to the city. Harvey referred to the discounted rides for multiple events and the first ride academies the company will be hosting at Boise Farmers Market.
Harvey went on to say what Bird was doing by protesting the city’s choice was attempting to intimidate its way into the market.
“The truth of the matter is we’re here tonight because of an all too common tactic in which Bird calls into question the hard work of staff and evaluators using aspirational and unfounded self-scoring to bargain — some may say intimidate its way into a market for which it was not selected,” Harvey said. “Lime’s selection was made according to long-standing processes and regulations for the city code and the business operations manual the same way as much of the innovative development and procurement undertaken by the city in recent years.”
Lime also said it plans to invest $12 million into the city over a three-year period through community engagement, hardware staffing, facilities, rent, and more.
Orr fought back against Lime’s claims.
“I’ll point to some of the language that was said by Lime because I think it’s indicative of the experience here in Boise,” Orr said. “They talked about discounts that they started last month, they talked about things that are coming this weekend, and things that they’re going to launch next week. But they didn’t launch it, they could have done it earlier. In 2022, Lime was using older generation models, first generation, old vehicles, right up until the RFP.”
The council ultimately voted to deny Bird’s request for an appeal — making Lime the chosen provider. Multiple council members stated that one vendor partnership would work best in the city.
“I was frankly a little bit wary (about selecting one vendor), I did a lot of reading on how that actually gets us closer to the things that we’ve been asking for — for years that none of our vendors have really been providing to our community,” Council President Holli Woodings said. “It’s been a lot of frustration, that’s gotten us here to where we’re now going to a single vendor model. Where we’ll have a little bit more control, a little bit closer partnership to get what we need out of micro-mobility in the city because I think micro-mobility is really important. It’s a great way for folks to get around out of cars that helps us accomplish our climate goals.”