A jump in JUMP prices jolts e-bike users

Parent company Uber, struggling with debt and new California law, blames increase on Sacramento city fees

Weeks after reporting a Q2 loss of $5.24 billion, Uber-owned JUMP more than doubled its fares for some e-bicycle trips.

Weeks after reporting a Q2 loss of $5.24 billion, Uber-owned JUMP more than doubled its fares for some e-bicycle trips.

Photo by Dylan Svoboda

Sacramento’s ultra-popular bike-share program just got a bit more expensive, raising questions about who will still have access.

At its launch in May 2018, JUMP bikes cost $1 for a 15-minute ride and 7 cents a minute afterward. Last month, the company upped fares to $1.50 for a 10-minute ride and 20 cents a minute thereafter. With the increase, a 30-minute ride jumped from $2.05 to $5.50, while an hour-long ride has gone from $4.15 to $11.50.

Debra Banks, acting executive director for Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, says the company may be pricing out those who need the electric rental bikes the most.

“At least in part, these bikes were supposed to be for people who can’t afford a car,” Banks said. “If you raise the rates, it’s going to make those people at the bottom of the income ladder unable to use those vehicles.”

Uber, JUMP’s parent company, is placing blame for its increase on the city of Sacramento’s new fee program.

“One of the factors in the new pricing is that cities across the United States have increased fees for bike and scooter companies, which makes it more costly to expand our fleet,” Uber’s Nick Smith said in an emailed statement. “To pay our fair share of the costs cities charge [us] to use public infrastructure, we need to share the cost of these fees with our riders.”

In May, the city began charging ride-share companies $4,440 for an initial operating permit and a $2,220 annual renewal fee. To cover parking and infrastructure impacts, Sacramento implemented a $0.25 per-trip-fee in the first year of operation and $0.10 per trip for subsequent years. The city also started charging a per-vehicle fee of $104 or $136, depending on the neighborhood.

Since obtaining a new permit nearly five months ago, Smith said the company paid more than $153,000 in fees, an extra 10 cents per trip.

The fees cover the city’s permitting process and building of parking spots and bike racks, said Carlos Eliason, a creative specialist with the city. Kirin Kumar of WalkSacramento, an advocacy group for car alternatives, said he views the city’s regulations as a necessary component to a healthy e-vehicle network.

“Recovering the costs to administer the system is critical for ensuring that the system is sustainable,” Kirin wrote in a statement to SN&R. “We would much rather see a functional system that continues to work for people than the systems we’ve seen in parts of the Bay Area, Long Beach and Houston, where mismanaged over-clutter of these devices has led to negative perceptions, ’bike-lash’ and declining use.”

The increases come as Uber continues dealing with debt, most recently recording a second-quarter loss of $5.24 billion, and the coming consequences of Assembly Bill 5, which threatens to upend its traditional business model of hiring inexpensive independent contractors.

While JUMP’s an early pioneer and still the capital city’s most recognizable e-bike company, competition is already underway.

In late July, San Francisco-based Lime placed 250 electric scooters across the central city and some immediate suburbs. The company is also permitted to deploy e-bikes, though Lime’s Alex Youn indicated the company is focused on e-scooters for now. The city is reviewing e-vehicle permit applications from Bird, Lyft, Spin and HelBiz, according to Eliason.