Scooters And One Wheels

Why did scooter leases decline in Salt Lake Metropolis?

What is it the rising temps or rising costs? Price tag for a ride has climbed since 2018 launch, but growth had been strong until July’s scorching heat wave.

(Michael Brandy | Special to The Tribune) From left, Nick Dean, Joseph Carillo and James Morrell ride electric scooters in downtown Salt Lake City, Saturday, July 30, 2022.

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Was it those record 18 days of triple digits? Or is inflation — and rising rental rates — finally catching up with the scooter boom?

Whatever the reason, Salt Lake City electric scooter rentals fell by 26% last month compared to July 2021. And that’s after the city saw a 44% year-over-year gain in April through June of this year.

Ruedigar Matthes, policy and program manager for the city’s Department of Community and Neighborhoods, said the number of scooters available last month was roughly the same as a year ago, and he doesn’t know what caused July’s drop.

“Any thoughts that I have are merely conjecture,” Matthes said. It could be “increased temperatures, inflation, potential price increases on scooters, lower unemployment rates.”

(Michael Brandy | Special to The Tribune) Fourteen-year-old Kieryn Finnell and her father, Jack Finnell, discuss their route before riding an electric scooter on Main Street in Salt Lake City, Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Currently, Salt Lake City has two scooter vendors: Lime and Spin, though neighboring cities may contract with other companies. Utah’s capital does not set rates for scooters, but it does track usage so it can collect fees from the vendors, who must pay the city $30 per scooter annually and 10 cents per trip.

Last month, the city logged 72,582 scooter rides, down more than 25,000 from July 2021′s 98,065 rides. That number is also below the 90,592 rides the two companies had in July 2019. July 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its first wave — saw only 45,114 rides from the companies. Matthes noted that it’s possible a small number of July 2022’s rides haven’t been logged yet.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

When Bird scooters first launched the city’s scooter era back in 2018, the cost was $1 to start and 15 cents per minute after that. Spin’s standard rate still starts riders at $1, but the per-minute cost has jumped to 42 cents per minute. Lime scooters have a base rate of $3.50 for up to seven minutes, and 41 cents per minute after that.

Rick Crossley, Idaho-Utah operations manager for Lime scooters, says the company has scooters from Orem to North Ogden, and overall it is seeing continued growth, including a 133% surge across all Utah locations in the first half of the year. The company has passed 2 million total rides in the state.

“Lime’s mission is to help cities build a future where transportation is shared, affordable, and carbon-free,” Crossley said, “and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished working towards that goal in the Salt Lake City region and around Utah.”

Lime spokesperson Jacob Tugendrajch said ridership remained strong regionwide in July. “We believe that ridership in the city will resume its strong levels in August and beyond.”

(Michael Brandy | Special to The Tribune) James Morrell checks his miles logged after riding an electric scooter with friends in downtown Salt Lake City, Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Spin has been gaining market share in the city.

Phuong Bui, Spin’s head of government partnerships in the western United States, said affordability is a top priority. “We offer multiple payment structures with flat fees and transparent pricing to give our riders options.”

Both companies offer discounted rates for multiple rides and all-day passes. They also have programs with reduced rates for low-income residents.

When the scooters first arrived, area emergency rooms saw a rise in emergency room visits from injured riders. But accident statistics from the first years show relatively few scooter collisions with cars. From the beginning in 2018 through 2020, there were 35 scooter/car accidents, 18 of which resulted in injuries. There was one fatality, although that was on a privately owned scooter, not a rental.

(Michael Brandy | Special to The Tribune) Brian and Dennis Cormier ride electric scooters to get around downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

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