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Scooters have a short window to return and operate in 2019 

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THURSDAY, Aug. 22 — Where did all the electric scooters go? And will they be coming back? Those questions have been on many a mind of people curious about these innovative if gimmicky modes of transport that flooded the city last summer and fall.  

In April, Michigan State University chose Gotcha, an electric scooter company out of South Carolina, to have the exclusive rights for its scooters to be parked on campus property.  

Gotcha was supposed to drop about 300 scooters on Sunday, per previous reports. That didn’t happen and Gotcha spokeswoman Caroline Passe said her company is still finalizing its agreement with MSU, forcing students to use their old-fashioned legs to reach their first classes. 

“Once the agreement is signed and we have in-market staff in place, we will finalize the launch date,” Passe said. “We have found a warehouse in-market.” 

East Lansing spokeswoman Mikell Frey said the city has given temporary approval to Gotcha. “They have expressed interest in deploying scooters in East Lansing in September,” she added. 

Access to MSU may be the linchpin to operating in East Lansing and Lansing as well. The cities would allow more companies, but without the students, and with the threat of confiscation if competing scooters are dumped on campus, the renegade companies that appeared last year have not returned. 

In 2018, the scooter companies bombed the nation with their low-maintenance electric vehicles, and the Lansing area got caught right up with it, with companies Bird and Lime dropping them everywhere and cluttering up the sidewalks and the MSU campus. 

It was a strategy similar to Uber and Lyft  bust in, break all the rules, and hope the public will demand that the old regulations be tossed and they be let in. But a scooter is not as convenient as an app-based taxicab for getting around, and the primary companies, once they ran into government opposition, have not returned. 

Instead, more cooperative companies appear to be the ones to apply for access to the cities that have pushed back, and these other scooter companies are showing an ability to play by the rules. 

East Lansing and Lansing require the companies pay a $2,500 fee for a license and then cut them in on the revenues to the tune of 10 cents a ride. The speed limit in Lansing is 15 miles per hour while East Lansing restricts them to 10 miles per hour on the sidewalks. The revenues will be earmarked to improve the two cities’ cracked and grass-choked sidewalks, but the amount of money they’ll raise is unclear. 

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said Gotcha got its license approved in early summer. “Lime and Bird have not applied,” he said. 

Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan are being served by Spin, a scooter company owned by Michigan’s Ford Motor Co. Spin also has a license to operate in the city of Lansing but has not disbursed any scooters in the capital city. 

Detroit, along with Chicago, has maintained more of a free-for-all approach. Spin, Lime and Bird abound on the streets of these big cities. Chicago has two other scooter companies, Bolt and Jump. Lime and Bird are also still operating in Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis. Lime additionally operates in some more surprising cities like Bloomington, South Bend and even Elkhart, Indiana. 

Gotcha appears focused more on college towns. The South Carolina company has spread across the South in places such as Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Oxford, Mississippi., and Chapel Hill, N.C. Closer to home, they operate in Toledo, Ohio, and Lafayette, Indiana, the home of Big Ten rival Purdue University. 

Once Gotcha releases their scooters onto the streets of Ingham County, they may only be around for three months before they disappear again. “We don’t have a specific time in the agreement to pull the scooters but it will probably be in November,” Passe said.  

Winter is coming. 

 

 

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