Spin scooters lined Alamo Street at the intersection of Commerce.
Spin scooters lined Alamo Street at the intersection of Commerce. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Months before an expected scooter exodus, Ford-owned Spin on Monday became the seventh company to begin operating dockless vehicles in San Antonio.

The company rolled out 100 of its bright-orange scooters but has a permit to deploy as many as 500 in the city. Spin was among the last companies to be granted a permit under the City of San Antonio’s dockless vehicle pilot program, which launched last fall. The City placed a moratorium on permit applications in February.

“We’re excited to service the daily commuters working downtown, and tourists visiting the River Walk and Alamo areas,” said Ariella Steinhorn, a spokeswoman for Spin.

The rented electric scooters, operated via a smartphone app, have spread to numerous cities throughout the U.S. and other countries in the past year and a half. The vehicles are often seen either as a dangerous scourge terrorizing pedestrians and littering sidewalks, or a long-sought micromobility solution.

But Spin may not be in town for long.

The City has been working toward an eventual contraction of companies and scooters after an increased number of complaints regarding dangerous scooter use and improper parking. If a staff recommendation is approved by City Council at an upcoming meeting, the City would in October begin a new contract-based dockless program, which could limit the number of scooters to just 5,000 among three companies.

The companies will be chosen based on a number of criteria in response to a government bidding process. The top three vendors who meet those requirements will be able to work with the City on a contractual basis.

City staff announced their recommendations in a Transportation Committee meeting last month, which generated a mixed response among the committee members. Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), the lone dissenting vote in the 2-1 decision, disagreed with a reduction in scooters and companies. Many potential tweaks to the City’s dockless vehicle governance – such as barring use on sidewalks and rolling back an 11 p.m. curfew for scooter use – remain on the table in upcoming meetings.

The City had approved 16,100 scooters and e-bikes as part of the pilot program. In addition to Spin, the companies currently operating include Bird, Lime, Razor, Blue Duck, Lyft, and Uber-owned Jump.

Unlike Bird and Lime, which use independent contractors to collect scooters at night and charge them, Spin has hired employees to gather the vehicles for recharging.

The City Council will consider the recommendations at a B Session meeting on Wednesday. Council is expected to vote on the item May 30.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.