The company also said it would waive the $1 charge to unlock the bikes, charging just 10-cents per minute, while Highway 99 is closed through downtown Seattle.
Uber is significantly increasing the areas of Seattle served by its bike-share, expanding the service area to cover all of South and West Seattle, the company announced Monday.
The ride-hailing giant is increasing the number of bikes it has in the city, jumping from just a few hundred to more than 2,000 in the coming weeks. The company also said it would waive the $1 charge to unlock the bikes, charging just 10-cents per minute, while Highway 99 is closed through downtown Seattle.
Uber launched its bike-share service in Seattle in November but initially served a limited portion of the city, from Northwest 65th Street South to the Mount Baker light-rail station, with little service south of Interstate 90. The company is expanding slowly, to ensure that there are enough bikes in areas where they get the most use.
The newly announced expansion follows a Seattle Times story that noted Uber’s initially limited service area — while temporary and in compliance with city regulations — excluded most of the city’s most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
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The new service area covers the entire southern half of the city, as well as the vast majority of the city south of 65th Street. Parts of Magnolia, Leschi, Madrona and virtually all of Seattle north of 65th remain outside the service area.
The company, through its app and its website, tells customers that they will be charged $25 for ending a ride outside the service area. But Nathan Hambley, an Uber spokesman, said the fee is serving only as a warning, and no Seattle customers have been charged.
Uber operates its bike-share service, with red electric-assist bikes, under the brand name JUMP.
Seattle’s bike-share regulations allow companies to serve only portions of the city until May, or until they have 2,500 bikes on the streets, whichever comes first. Lime has provided bikes in the city for a 1 1/2 years, and Lyft has applied to operate a bike-share program.
The regulations intend to require companies to provide equitable access to the bikes, particularly in low-income areas and areas that have previously had poor bike access.
Uber’s new service area differs from the expansion it had planned in its application to the city. Instead of expanding north as initially planned, to cover neighborhoods like Greenwood and Crown Hill, the company expanded south, to cover every neighborhood to the city’s southern limits.
Hambley said the changes were made last month, to provide more travel options for the southern part of the city to deal with the shutdown of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“We believe bike sharing can help make cities smaller by connecting neighborhoods and making it easier for residents to travel, no matter where they live or where they have to go,” he said.