Alternative transportation companies like Bird and Lime have been scooter non grata on the Oklahoma State University campus since being banned in October. The university’s decision prompted an outcry among students who quickly became fans of their speed and convenience after the scooter companies established a presence in Stillwater just a few months earlier.
Now, after reviewing a number of proposals, OSU is preparing to welcome electric scooters back onto its campus through a partnership with Spin, a scooter rental company that isn’t currently operating in Stillwater.
Spin is a company that rents both dockless electric scooters and bicycles. It initially focused on bicycle rentals, but was one of the three companies that launched scooters in San Francisco in March. The company was recently acquired by Ford.
OSU’s scooter rental ban was prompted by concerns about safety; issues with access to cross-walks, sidewalks and buildings being blocked for people with limited mobility and concerns that the companies had dropped scooters in excess of the number of permits bought, Sr. Vice-president for Administration and Finance Joe Weaver told the News Press at the time.
The action targeted commercial scooter rental companies, not privately owned scooters.
After OSU gave both Bird and Lime a 5 p.m. Oct. 15 deadline to clear their scooters off the campus or risk having them impounded, the companies established geofences that blocked their scooters from being operated on OSU grounds.
OSU Transportation Department director Steve Spradling told the News Press in November that his department would be looking for a scooter company that will ensure the scooters are parked appropriately to avoid previous safety and accessibility problems.
"Out of the walkways, the paths, not in front of doors – hopefully one that can control maybe the speed on campus by setting some kind of geofence or something. And one that will enforce the parking,” Spradling said. “Lime is doing that now through a fine; if someone brings one on campus, we actually fine them and we haven’t had issues since that (ban) has been put into place. … But we left it kinda open because we didn’t want to limit and tell them what we wanted, we wanted to give them some basics and let them say, ‘What can you do? We tried real hard to work with the companies here, in particular Bird, to try to get them to help us get people, riders, to follow the rules. But we weren’t getting much assistance on that, and then they flooded the city and campus with more than needed, so it caused even more problems.”
Spradling said the university had been charging the scooter companies $236 per year, per unit, the same rate as its vendor’s parking permit, which worked out to much less than the $1 per day per unit the company was voluntarily paying the City of Stillwater.
He said OSU was open to proposals that would reduce the cost for students and other users.
“We asked them, ‘Give us the best pricing for the students,’ and we didn’t emphasize how much the university was going to make,” Spradling said. “We want it to be something students can afford. And there were some saying they were spending $30-40 a week riding scooters, and that’s a lot of money when you think about that. So if we can reduce that, that’s great. We don’t want to reduce it to the amount where people don’t care where they leave them or how they ride them, we want them to ride them properly and safely.”
According to the bid specifications, the university’s target implementation date is Jan. 3, with the goal of having service up and running when the spring semester begins on Jan. 14.
Each bidder was required to provide its best offer for a turn-key operation along with details about things like revenue sharing available to OSU, phasing required in delivery etc., current markets and clients served, biographies and qualifications of project team members, information on the company’s organization and history, and specifics about how the scooter program would be administered to ensure safety, community engagement and proper coverage.
The university also asked vendors to describe their plans to provide access to their scooters off campus, including how they would deal with units leaving campus and traveling into other parts of the city and how they planned to work with the City of Stillwater to arrange for city permits and ensure compliance with city ordinances.