Gotcha Clears Community Pathway for E-Scooters, E-Bikes and E-Trikes
(Photos courtesy of Gotcha)
The scooters are coming, the scooters are coming … but this time the electric rideshare company Gotcha has cleared the way with local officials to operate in a way that they hope will be more of an attraction and less distraction.
Gotcha, based in Charleston, S.C., and now in its 10th year of business, plans to launch its e-scooter rental program in East Lansing in August. According to CEO Sean Flood, Gotcha is the only U.S. business to have three electric-powered transportation products available to users, in one app.
For the past two weeks, Gotcha’s site planning and operations team have been in the area, preparing the e-scooter hubs for the estimated 300-600 units. After a test run of the electronic trikes (three-wheel adult model) in the area, the company is excited to possibly add those as modes of transportation in the future. (See below for a photo supplied by Gotcha, and click here to see more images of the e-trikes.)
Rideshare scooter companies such as Bird and Lime have caused some confusion and frustration locally, but Flood said Gotcha is different.
“We focus on where we can have a partnership,” he said. “We recently signed our 100th partnership. We only deploy where we can have a contract to operate. We don’t just drop assets, and ask for forgiveness.”
Gotcha CEO Sean Flood
East Lansing considered a prime location
In searching for destinations, Gotcha looks at cities with transportation and commuting challenges, many of which include college campuses. Flood said East Lansing is an ideal fit for the program.
“There was connectivity between the municipalities and the university,” Flood said. “A strong, large university that has a student body and faculty in need of transportation was a definite plus. But then, I think the biggest thing – in this case, both the municipalities and the university were really open to focusing on innovation.”
“Let’s not just think about scooters – but how we look at electric bikes, and our community,” Flood added. “How our students and faculty can help on the innovation and engineering side. It just had so many elements of that partnership piece. I’m pretty confident we’re on the right track for it to eventually be a multi-product partnership.”
Gotcha has evolved over time, branching out from college campuses, and now includes an electric bike share program, an e-scooter program, and electric trike program.
“The goal of Gotcha is to decrease traffic on our roads – in particular, single passenger vehicles,” Flood said. “We think that will allow for more livability in our communities, or our universities, and mid-sized municipalities.”
Although Flood considers e-scooters a great alternative mode of transportation, he realizes they’re not for everyone. Ideally, they will be a sustainable, suitable replacement for short-term trips where a car is not needed. “We think if you’re going to disrupt and replace single passenger cars, you need to provide real choice to consumers.”
A more organized system of distribution and use
It’s the partnership piece which Flood said helps provide a more supported program in local communities. Safety practices also impact how a neighborhood views similar e-scooter programs.
“I know that scooters in particular get a lot of bad press, and the reason isn’t the thing – it’s not the device, because that’s actually been proven a really great mode of transportation. It’s the business practices –that’s the visceral reaction.”
To avoid scooters being dropped off on lawns, and perhaps becoming dangerous obstacles, or impounded like 100 Bird scooters last fall, Gotcha is creating mobility hubs or approved parking zones. Within the downloaded app, users will see different places they can pick up/drop off the scooter.
“Our hope is to really start getting to use these mobility hubs, so that there’s predictability of where a product is going to be, and there’s also going to be the ability for it to look the way the municipality and university want,” Flood said.
Users (ages 18+) will pay $1 to unlock the scooter, after scanning the QR code with the app, and then will pay for the time (not distance) they’re using the device. The per-minute charge will be 15 cents.
Ultimately, it comes down to the users to really determine the success and overall community approval of the e-rideshare program.
“My hope is the residents of these communities, and students really give this an opportunity,” Flood said. "I ask everybody to follow the rules – just like driving a car, people need to obey the rules that are set out in order for this to be a successful mode of transit.”
Read about what East Lansing's e-scooter law requires in this ELi report.
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