Planned to start in August or September, the pilot will start with about 400 to 500 stand-on scooters, 200 bicycles and 100 sit-down scooters. The pilot will take place in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.
(TNS) — Hundreds of rentable electric stand-on scooters, sit-down scooters and bikes will hit city streets in late summer.
The Grand Rapids City Commission approved a $300,000 bid for a one-year micromobility pilot program with two companies during its Tuesday, May 12 meeting.
Planned to start in August or September, the pilot will start with about 400 to 500 stand-on scooters, 200 bicycles and 100 sit-down scooters. The scooters are electrically powered, and the bikes are electrically assisted.
The pilot will place the riding options not only in the downtown, but across about a dozen surrounding neighborhoods accounting for about half of the city's population.
Ridership fees will be $1 to unlock the stand-on scooters and electric-assist bikes and an additional 15 cents for each minute used. Prices are still being determined for the sit-down scooters but are expected to be higher, according to the city.
For residents with lower income, unlocking and ridership time costs will be reduced by 50 percent for all vehicles. Residents must show proof of income level or government assistance to obtain these reduced rates.
Leasing options for both scooter types are being explored.
Residents will be encouraged to leave the vehicles at parking hubs located in neighborhoods in all quadrants of the city indicated with signage and pavement markings. The location of those hubs are still being determined and may change based on ridership data.
The companies contracted for the pilot are Gotcha, which is based in Charleston, S.C., and Spin, which is based in San Francisco but owned by the Ford Motor Company.
Both companies already have footholds in other markets in Michigan, with Gotcha in East Lansing and Spin in Ann Arbor and Detroit.
The pilot program sign-off comes about two years after Grand Rapids officials said they were in talks with Lime and Bird, two of the biggest players in the industry, for electronic scooter rentals on city streets.
Josh Naramore, director of Mobile GR, said the city opted to subsidize, and partner on, the pilot entrance of electric riding options because it allows the city to regulate where the vehicles are placed and provides incentives to companies that may see Grand Rapids as too small in population to meet desired demand.
“I think if you talk to folks from the city of Detroit, I think one of their biggest regrets is having sort of an unregulated market and just letting vendors come and operate,” Naramore said.
“It makes it difficult for you to be able to control where the devices are being located and making sure that you’re meeting other outcomes.”
The outcomes the city wants, according to Naramore, are three-fold: safe operations, uncluttered right-of-ways and access for residents across the city, not just in downtown.
“If we allowed vendors just to choose where they wanted to go, they would pretty much only be focused in the downtown area, which would not allow us to make sure that all residents and all businesses can experience these as a mobility solution,” he said.
The riding options, in part, are meant to complement existing public transportation, and are envisioned as being able to get residents to a bus or from the bus to work.
“Ultimately, it’s just another tool in the toolbox for mobility solutions for residents and for businesses and for employees, because not everybody owns a car, and we want to be car-lite, because cars are expensive to own and operate,” Naramore said.
“This is another cheaper, more affordable option in addition to public transportation.”
According city officials, the electric bikes and scooters pilot replaces the bike share pilot program that the city was in early discussions on late last year.
The bike share pilot was envisioned as a year-round program with more than 800 non-electric bikes placed at more than more than 100 stations downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods. Funding would largely come from users, who would pay dues and rent bicycles on an hourly basis.
Naramore said the electric scooters and bikes will help play a role in economic recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic in that they’ll help extend the reach of public transportation and city businesses.
Electronic scooter companies have been hit hard recently because of ridership drops due to stay-at-home orders across the U.S. Michigan’s stay-home order was extended earlier this month by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through May 28.
In Detroit, Lime and Bird pulled their scooters off of city streets early on in the pandemic, The Detroit Free Press reported. The companies said the moves were temporary. Spin company officials say their scooters remain available in Detroit for essential travel and that healthcare workers are eligible for an unlimited number of free 30-minute rides through May 31.
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