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Electric scooter companies discount trips for students, low-income riders

But app-enabled scooter rentals are still in legal limbo in SF

An electric scooter parked beside a school bus.
Lime is offering free rides to some in LA (above) and other cities, but still waiting for the green light from SF.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

App-enabled electric scooters are still idling in neutral in San Francisco, as SFMTA has yet to issue any of the five planned permits that will eventually allow some scooter purveyors to return vehicles to city streets.

In the meantime, SF-based scooter companies are expanding in other cities while also aiming to improve their public image. Curbed reports that SF-based Bird will offer discounted fares for low-income riders, for example.

Bird announced the initiative, dubbed “One Bird,” on Thursday:

One Bird eliminates the $1 base fee per ride for anyone who is currently enrolled in, or eligible for a state or federal assistance program. [...] To qualify, individuals must be currently enrolled in or eligible for a state or federal assistance program, including, but not limited to CalFresh, Medicaid, SNAP, or a discounted utility bill.

Waiving the base ride fee means that eligible riders can ride Bird for 15 cents per minute. For example, with One Bird, riders will spend about $3 on a 20-minute commute to work while a rideshare for the same trip can cost upwards of $10.

The company says the deal applies in all cities in which it operates in. It’s not clear whether that includes San Francisco, but it presumably will at a future date.

Similarly, the San Francisco Examiner reports that Uber-backed competitor Lime will wave fares for low-income San Francisco State University students, although that deal appears to covers only bike shares rather than scooters.

Photo by EddieHernandezPhotography

Scooter companies aim to put a decent spin on their public image, after annoyed residents decried the vehicles as nuisances and tokens of gentrification when they suddenly appeared on city streets in April, criticisms also born by the related bike-share and ride-share sectors.

Despite the complaints, scooters proved immediately popular with riders and SF-based scooter companies expanded with breathtaking velocity.

But here in their hometown they’re still all stuck spinning their wheels while City Hall keeps its own counsel.