Minot Eyes Electric Scooters for Alternative Transportation | North Dakota News
By JILL SCHRAMM, Minot Daily News
MINOT, ND (AP) — A company providing electric scooters as public transportation may come to Minot after the city council ordered staff to develop a memorandum of understanding with Bird Scooters for its review.
Bird Scooters offers electric scooters for short-term rental as part of a shared transport service. She has operations in Williston and Bismarck.
“The operation of our system is very similar to some of the bike-sharing systems you may already be familiar with,” said Michael Covato, a Bird Scooters executive who addressed the council virtually.
“What we’re looking to do is, in general, improve the quality of life in the city by improving air quality, reducing traffic congestion and providing alternative transportation options,” Covato said.
The operation works through a mobile app that allows people to locate scooters for their short trips around town. Before their first ride, they must follow a safety tutorial. The scooters are fitted with a headlight, taillights and running lights as well as a safety sticker with the 24/7 contact details of a company representative.
The scooters can travel up to 15 mph, although they warm up to 6 mph for new users getting to grips with the devices. Covato said the top speed is similar to the speed of an amateur cyclist and that scooters use the same travel paths as bicycles, Minot Daily News reported.
Bird scooters also offer geo-fence and geo-speed controls, which create digital boundaries that control where scooters can go and how fast.
“We are not looking for any grant investment or any type of money from the city or any other organization,” Covato said. “It’s something we can introduce for free in the city. Our process involves an ongoing relationship with city staff to ensure we make necessary adjustments to services to best benefit the community. (backslash)
“To this end we are providing a person known as a relationship manager who all city staff can contact at any time so that we can change where we may be deploying the scooters, where they were allowed to go, what the speed at which they move to particular locations and other types of adjustments that might be needed.
Bird partners with community members known as fleet managers, whose full-time job is to charge and deploy scooters in the community when needed, he said. The average income for a fleet manager is $70,000.
“What that means is that we can create direct primary economic benefit,” he said. “The majority of the net revenue actually generated on the rides stays within the Minot community. At the same time, the city has the certainty of knowing that there is someone with a deep connection to the community who is able to respond to any requests in terms of moving scooters or adjusting the way we provide our services.
Covato noted that nearly 60% of trips end in front of a local business, often catering businesses. Emory University released a third-party study in 2021 that found that over a six-month period, each individual scooter contributed $921 in additional spending at local businesses, he said.
Bird Scooters offers a fleet of about 100 scooters in Minot, operating about nine months of the year and generating nearly $250,000 in revenue, not including additional spending at local businesses, Covato said.
Bird was the first company in the world to introduce shared electric scooters, and it is now the largest provider, with a presence in more than 400 cities around the world, he said.
Lance Meyer, Minot town engineer, said conversations with the town of Bismarck indicate the town has had no major issues with the Bird scooters.
“The key, of course, like any business, is to make sure you have the right person on the ground dealing with scooters and customer service,” Meyer said. “There are things that can be written in the MOU to make sure those things happen.”
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