ST. GEORGE — After a nearly six-month hiatus, e-scooters will soon be motoring along St. George streets once again, and city officials hope to keep them around long-term.
What started out in March 2019 as a successful introduction of e-scooters in St. George turned to disappointment one year later when Boston-based Zagster, the company that managed the scooter fleet in Southern Utah, did not renew its contract with the e-scooter company.
The biggest loser with the end of that contract was St. George.
Prior to the end of the partnership, Spin, a unit of Ford Motor Company. had provided more than 200 scooters to St. George with Zagster picking up the management and maintenance duties.
Within weeks of the end of the synergy between Spin and Zagster earlier this year, e-scooters were removed from city streets leaving a void for St. George officials to fill.
After the city conducted a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, several companies submitted bids on providing St. George with an alternative solution. A tried-and-true partner eventually emerged as the logical choice: San Francisco-based Spin.
“When we went out for the requests for proposals, we want to make sure things were on a fair playing field and that we had the best option for St. George to bring back the scooters,” said Marc Mortensen, St. George director of support services.
The city and Spin have agreed to a two-year contract, with three one-year renewals possible. At the outset, Spin will provide between 200 and 250 scooters with increases based on demand.
Demand shouldn’t be a problem, city officials said.
In one year operating in St. George, more than 124,000 scooter rides were taken with an average of 21 minutes per trip.
Users included Dixie State University students, residents venturing out on recreational paved trails and tourists opting for a unique way to get around town.
Across the nation, shared bikes and e-scooter ridership totaled more than 135 million trips in 2019, up 60% from 2018 according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
The association found the majority of micromobility trips in 2019 were short, averaging 11 to 12 minutes in duration and between one and 1.5 miles in distance. The organization said those figures are key compared to data that suggests 35% of car trips across the nation are less than two miles.
Shifting more trips to bikes and scooters, mass transportation experts say, will help ease issues like congestion, road safety and pollution.
Tipping the decision to go with Spin were several offered incentives that included 24-hour recharging stations with the capability of servicing up to six scooters at a time, social media outreach on Apple App Store and Google Play, and hiring a full-time local team to expedite solving issues and accommodate rapid changes in demand.
As part of its agreement, Spin will also fund demonstration projects to evaluate ways to expand the city’s active transportation and micromobility goals.
“Spin is a great company,” Mortensen said. “Although we had a lot of outstanding companies apply, we ended up going with Spin after about a 45-day vetting period.”
A bonus of the new arraignment, Mortensen added, will be the direct relationship with Spin offering a one-stop-shop that includes hardware, maintenance, warehouse, marketing, investments and upping the game on the company’s visibility and commitment to the community.
“We are looking forward to working with Spin directly rather than a third party this time around,” Mortensen said. “Working through Zagster was a little awkward. I wasn’t sure if both companies had the same philosophy, but we are excited about how things have turned out.”
Alex April, senior government partnerships manager at Spin, is also looking forward to the renewed partnership with the city.
“We are thrilled to be coming back to St. George for a bunch of reasons,” April said. “It’s a really great market and the city has been really nimble and wonderful to work with. Along with making investments in infrastructure, the city has been very forward-thinking about alternative modes of transportation.”
To bolster long-term survivability in any market size, Spin considers many factors including ridership demographics. One major plus in St. George is the large number of college students using e-scooters.
“But, I wouldn’t say the biggest variable is the size of the market, but what the regulations are,” April said. “Some cities where regulations have not been set in place yet, you see a flood of eight different providers or maybe no cap on the number of scooters. It can be a little bit of the wild west out there.”
Spin looks at partnering with communities as an investment both in business development for the city along with offering top of the line service at a comparable price point set under the Spin/Zagster relationship.
According to Spin, the cost for scooters will be $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute.
The official relaunch of Spin scooters is tentatively scheduled for noon, Sept. 28 outside the Holland Building on the campus of Dixie State University.
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