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MONDAY, April 8 — Electric scooters are coming back to Lansing, but possibly in smaller numbers.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope announced last week a licensing agreement with Spin, a San Francisco-based electric scooter startup owned by Ford Motor Co. It will likely be the third to launch here, with plans to drop off an unnamed number of scooters sometime this summer, according to company officials.
But two other companies, Bird and Lime, are nowhere to be seen following a brief stint on city streets last year.
City officials previously announced Spin was to arrive downtown this week. Spokesman Frank Speek said that launch will likely need to wait until early May while the company works to hire a local operations team and acquire a scooter warehouse. The company needs the “proper infrastructure,” Speek said by email.
Deputy City Clerk Brian Jackson said neither Bird nor Lime has confirmed plans to return to the city, despite a recent ordinance that guides their use. And it’s unclear whether either plans to return. Bird officials haven’t returned emails. A Lime spokeswoman couldn’t confirm plans to bring back the scooters.
"Our initial pilot confirmed that residents and visitors are eager for more convenient, affordable transportation options,” the Lime spokeswoman said. “We're excited to provide that solution to help better connect communities, and we're looking forward to reviewing the city’s permit application.”
Spin, founded in 2016, was reportedly purchased by Ford for about $100 million earlier this year. The company launched a fleet of about 1,200 scooters in Indianapolis recently and operates in at least 18 U.S. cities, including Detroit. Plans also reportedly call for expansion to at least 100 cities this year.
The scooters look similar to those launched in Greater Lansing by Bird last year.
After a wintry season curbed the newly launched fleet of electric scooters in Lansing and East Lansing, city officials have worked to polish up some rules for their return. Both Lansing and East Lansing have adopted ordinances and plans to rake in some extra cash in the process.
Lansing rushed together a licensing agreement in October after Lime and Bird rolled into the city unannounced. The deal lasted only 60 days, limited companies to 250 scooters and required a flat $125 licensing fee — standard for doing business on city streets. East Lansing never struck a temporary agreement.
Lansing’s new ordinance charges each company an upfront, $2,500 licensing fee along with a 10-cent, per-ride surcharge for every scooter rented within city limits. Early estimates suggested Lansing could receive about $75,000 annually.
Lansing City Council Vice President Peter Spadafore said he hopes the cash will be earmarked for sidewalk enhancements.
“We’re also requiring they work with the city to develop an educational campaign on the proper way to use these scooters,” Spadafore added. “We didn’t designate exactly what that’ll look like. It could be Facebook videos.”
The ordinance also removed a 250-scooter limit from prior licensing arrangements.
Some local residents have voiced concerns about a theoretically limitless number of scooters littering city streets. But Spadafore said he sees their availability as self-limited: If the scooters aren’t being used, they’re not going to line sidewalks.
“These scooters are moved,” Mayor Andy Schor said. “These companies track the usage and if they’re being used, they stay. If not, they’ve moved somewhere else. They’re not just dropping off scooters to leave them around town. If we have several hundred being used, then we’ll have several hundred scooters on the streets.”
As a precaution, Lansing’s ordinance also allows the city to impose a cap.
East Lansing City Council recently passed an electric scooter ordinance of its own. Restrictions there largely mirrored those in Lansing and also include a flat, $2,500 licensing fee. No scooters have returned there yet either.
The State News reported last month about Spin’s potential market interest on the streets of East Lansing. The company has also reportedly engaged in conversations with Michigan State University about operating on campus. Officials confirmed Spin has since submitted a licensing application, but no license has been granted.
Estimated revenues on the East Lansing market are expected to rise into the “tens of thousands” this year, according to Mayor Pro-Tem Erik Altmann. Those funds are designated to cover the costs of administering the program. The remainder — like Lansing — will be allocated specifically to infrastructure improvements.