WINCHESTER - After two months of back-and-forth, Town Manager Lisa Wong, along with Town Counsel, reached an agreement with electronic scooter company Skinny Labs Inc. d/b/a Spin. Last night, the Select Board formally approved an electric scooter share program agreement with the company.
Back in July, Wong announced the idea of partnering with an e-scooter company. With several to choose from, the Town Manager settled on Spin. It is owned by Ford Motor Company, so it is well financed and able to pay its employees a full-time salary with benefits. The staff can, therefore, deal with pick-up, drop-off and maintenance.
Even prior to her first announcement, Wong had met with representatives from Spin on several occasions. At the time, she shared with the board a typical user agreement several other communities signed on to. The one Winchester signed (or will sign) has a few modifications including no exclusivity clause, a six-month trial period and an initial fleet of 50 scooters.
At first, the board had questions and concerns, as did others including Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee Chair Jim Whitehead. While Whitehead expressed interest in the program, as it could help remove cars from the roadway, he worried about the scooters’ battery life and how it worked with credit cards. If you pay for multiple uses, he wondered, will the credit card company reject one thinking it’s a duplicate charge.
Fortunately, for the board and Whitehead, Spin’s partnership manager Ashley Brown visited town to address many of their concerns. First, e-scooters can only be used by riders who are 18 and older and have a valid driver’s license. It costs $1 to “unlock” the e-scooter and the cost for a ride could be between 10 and 15 cents per minute.
(An alarm will sound if someone attempts to use or move the e-scooter without first unlocking it.)
The e-scooters have a 15 mile range before needing to be recharged and a GPS monitoring system that allows the company and town to track where the e-scooters are most being used. They also come with an anti-lock braking system, an LED headlight that’s always on, a rear-red reflector, and puncture proof tires. They top out at a maximum speed of 15 MPH.
Brown said that while some e-scooter companies will come into a community and drop their product off unannounced, Spin never launches without permission. She added Spin is “committed to sharing our data with partners,” but they also “strongly safeguard (their) data.”
Brown did admit parking the e-scooters can be a challenge, so the company created a virtual coral that forces riders to park in a designated area. The company also has an app that allows users to rate the parking job of the person who used the e-scooter before them. A bad parking job gets the user a strike. Three strikes and the user’s account is suspended.
The scooters can be dropped anywhere. At night, employees will come pick the scooters up, charge them, and then drop them back off in neighborhoods (or, technically, wherever the town wants). They are also not year-round. In the winter, Spin will come remove them.
Select Board Chair Mariano Goluboff suggested during the initial meeting with Brown unveiling the e-scooters on a Saturday during the farmers market; however, his idea wasn’t discussed last night. The scooters will be unloaded potentially as early as today, so they could be available for this Saturday’s farmers market.
For the town, Brown said the data they collect could be available quarterly or monthly and include the number of rides, where they start and the length of the trip. Select Board member Michael Bettencourt also asked about revenue sharing during the initial meeting and Brown acknowledged the company does offer revenue sharing. She didn’t get into any specific details, however, and it wasn’t brought up again last night.
Now that an agreement has been reached, residents could see slightly less cars on the roadway and even some additional parking spaces open in the Wedgemere and Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station lots.