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ELi reporter Sarah Spohn takes a Gotcha scooter for a test drive near Erickson Hall and Farm Lane on the MSU campus. (Photos by Raymond Holt)
With South Carolina-based electric rideshare company Gotcha now just days away from launching its e-scooter rental program in East Lansing, this past week CEO Sean Flood and a few other Gotcha members set up camp, and met with students and reporters, and demoed their product on MSU’s campus.
The company had been finalizing plans and contracts with local municipalities and Michigan State University. MSU announced last week that it "has entered an exclusive partnership with Gotcha to provide and operate scooters on campus. The arrangement allows for MSU researchers to collect data about scooter use providing insight on how this emerging technology fits into the larger transportation picture."
“We’re about 7-10 days from launching officially,” Flood said last Thursday, “so we really wanted to be on campus – to build awareness, get students, faculty and staff to download the app, and more importantly, educate them on the program.”
According to Flood, Gotcha would have preferred to be up and running sooner, but lack of local staff delayed the launch. (Gotcha is one of several companies that have told ELi in the last few months that finding enough staff presents part of the challenge to coming to town.)
Bird and Lime were the scooter companies operating in East Lansing last year but have not returned since Council passed a regulatory ordinance. Gotcha prides itself on spending extra time designing each product for a more user-friendly riding experience — as well as a safer and more durable product — compared to its competitors.
“Another big difference between us and the previous companies is that we hire team members to work directly for us, so there’s no charging scooters in somebody’s yard or apartment,” Flood said. “That takes time to make sure we have the right staff.”
After the scooters, look for e-bikes and e-trikes
The first wave of the Gotcha launch will focus on the e-scooter option, with plans to follow for the e-bike and trike options.
“The university seems real open to both our e-bikes and the trikes, and other products that are in development,” Flood (below) said. “The university also really likes the research aspect of it. My instinct is we’ll probably spend the next two months focusing on just the scooters, with the goal of bringing the e-bikes and things in the spring semester.”
“This is a great mix where you’ve got a major university who really wants shared mobility, and you have two adjacent municipalities [Lansing and East Lansing] who their interests are aligned as well,” Flood said. “That doesn’t always happen, so that really makes the Lansing region really beneficial for shared mobility, because they’re not in competition with each other.
“We can see scooters, bikes and trikes really being a mode of transportation that connects those three entities, because I think the user base is the same – whether they’re residents, or faculty, or students traveling between those areas.”
Flood hopes the vendor is able to operate multiple product types for many years to come, with on and off-seasons depending on the weather.
“The scooter product is not designed to be in the snow,” Flood said. “The e-bike and the other ones are kind of year round. We’ll see how everything reacts to that period of it, and how the campus is maintained for scootering. As soon as it becomes an unsafe condition, we would pull the scooters off.”
‘Need to follow the rules’
So far, the community’s response to Gotcha’s trial presence in East Lansing has been perceived as positive.
“Students and everybody have been great,” Flood said. “They were disappointed to not have scooters in the market. I think people really started to understand they were a mode of transportation. They’ve all really gotten excited by the fact that there is a partner [linked with the university]. I think that always causes anxiety, even if a student wouldn’t say it that way – like ‘am I allowed to use this? Am I breaking a rule?’”
“Now, part of this education is that you’re going to have hundreds of these things, the university has signed off on it, but you need to follow the rules. You need to park it in the right area, you need to ride it in the right area, and you need to take care of the actual products.”
Users (ages 18 and older) can download the Gotcha app now, register, and see pricing for the specified area. The app will also work in other cities in which Gotcha operates.
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